Write Hacks 12: Word Processor

by Brenda W. Clough

Calligrafie,_Jan_Van_De_Velde_(1605) This hack assumes that you are not writing your ms with a ball point pen on yellow lined pads, the way I wrote most of my earlier novels. But if you are using a word processing program, ah! There are ways to make it work for you.

Here’s a simple one. You know, I am sure, how a wiggly red line usually appears under any word you type that is misspelled. This also happens with made-up names, because Word is not very smart. Elrond has a wiggly line under it, as I type it. However, there is a way to go into your word processing program, and mark that word as correctly spelled — to add ‘Elrond’ to the computer vocabulary. OK — do it. This will of course relieve you of the annoyance of having a wiggly red line under every use of the word. However! Once ‘Elrond’ is marked as correct, then every time you mis-type it as ‘Ellrond’ it will have a wiggly red line under it. And you can fix it. Essentially you are forcing the program to work with you, and not against you.

Furthermore: let us say that you then go and employ one of our earlier Write Hacks, and put the name ‘Elrond’ through Google. OMG! Look at all these pictures of Hugo Weaving — you did not know that JRRT invented the name and used it extensively through LOTR and many other works! (Elementary, my dear Watson: I deduce that you live barefoot and clothed in six yards of` orange muslin in a Buddhist monastery in the High Pamir.) And there are movies!! Who knew?!

Clearly the thing to do is a global search and replace, taking out all occurrences in the ms of ‘Elrond’ and subbing in ‘Allanon.’ Having ‘Elrond’ correctly spelled throughout allows for a clean and complete search-and-replace. Since computers are stupid they will leave in all occurrences of ‘Ellrond’, but you have (with the aid of the wiggly red line) corrected them all. (And, yeah — before you do any of this go and put ‘Allanon‘ into Google…)





Write Hacks 12: Word Processor — 8 Comments

  1. Beware! Beware! Global search-and-replace works just fine with a character name like Elrond. But suppose you have a character named Fin, and then The Force Awakens is released with a major character of that name and you decide to change the name to Bert instead. As well as changing Fin to Bert, you’ll change find to Bertd, your fish will be swimming around with the aid of their Berts, and so on.

    • I never do global search and replace. I always do it one by one and look at each situation before changing it. But I use find and replace on a regular basis. This is one place where the computer is smarter than you are. Not only can it skip all the places where you didn’t use the word and just go to the ones where you did, it also won’t miss one.

  2. I’m reminded of a story, possibly apocryphal, about a writer who decided to change his character’s name from David to Bruce, did a search-and-replace without watching it, and ended up with an unnoticed reference to “Michelangelo’s Bruce.”

    Also, if you create a custom dictionary for each title (or series), Word and some other wp programs will create a separate text file of the names and neologisms you’ve added to the custom dictionary when you spell-check. (Instead of adding the words to your regular dictionary.)

    Open the custom dictionary as a regular text file, save it as a doc for the copyeditor and for your own future use, then manipulate the character names and words, adding descriptions, definitions, pronunciations.

    This is also useful for comparing what you’ve done in one book with what you’ve done in the next of a series, to be sure you’ve spelled everybody’s name correctly and recalled all the neologisms, so you don’t call somebody Ffred in one book and Frred in the next.


    • So true. Even if it’s spelled ‘Elrond’ in this book you might well decide to spell it ‘Ellrond’ in a totally different series. Life is long; you never know where the Muse is going to take you.

    • I have seen with my own eyes a book where someone must have decided to search and replace to capitalize references to Mass (the Catholic service) — and not checked afterwards. Because every one of them was MASS, not Mass.

      • In 1989 the Guardian newspaper reported the election victory of Anita Turnoutack, who was actually called Anita Pollack. Someone had referred to the low poll, and a sub-editor had correctly changed it to low turnout, but incorrectly done so by using global search and replace.

  3. Pingback: Write Hacks 13: Fix Those Pronouns | Book View Cafe Blog