Writing Advice: Self-Editing Tip #2 – Color Code

Every writer has a list of words they overuse:

– Just
– That
– Like
– Look
– Feel
– Was
– Even
– Still
– Of

Those are just a few but there are TONS. Some are general and apply to all of us. While some are specific to a particular writer.

One way to catch the problem words so you can weed them out of your manuscript is color-coding. No matter how many times you read or re-read (or read aloud) a passage, you will still overlook a word because you’re used to seeing it.

Most word processing programs have Find-and-Replace. Use that function to find the word you want and highlight them all and/or change the color of the text. If you use a different color for every word (hopefully your list isn’t too long), you can enjoy the rainbow effect once you’re finished finding and replacing them all.

Okay, that’s not the reason you use a different color for each word (or try to). You use a different color so you don’t start overlooking them again. If everything is highlighted in red, then you get overwhelmed and frustrated and decide not to do it after all. However, if you make must-be-chopped words red and needs-re-write words yellow, then the process becomes a little easier.

Do NOT use Find-and-Replace to remove the word. You want to make sure your sentences continue to be coherent. Sometimes that “even” is holding the sentence together and you don’t realize that until you take it out.

Not every instance of the “naughty” words has to be removed. Take them on a case by case basis. 95% of the time the word can be chopped without the sentence being affected. It’s the other 5% that you have to watch out for.

Oh and if you’re technically savvy, you can create a Macro to do all the Find-and-Replace color coding for you so you don’t have to do them one word at a time. One button click and your manuscript it color-coded. But that’s something you’ll have to do a search to locate a tutorial.

Back to Top