Jami Gold recently had two articles on using Macros to help in your editing and polishing phase of your manuscript: MS Word Trick: Using Macros to Edit and Polish and Fix Showing vs. Telling with Macros & Word Lists.
Jami does an excellent job of showing you how to insert and use macros, so I won’t repeat that here. The first link also gives a ton of different macros you can use. Come back here after you’ve read those two, and I’ll share with you another one: SimultaneityCheck.
Why check for Simultaneity Issues?
There are two helpful flags to look for in your WIP that could spell trouble: phrases employing -ing verbs and ‘as’ constructions.
Why can these flag trouble? Because in certain cases, they can mean that the actions are happening at the same time. I say certain cases, because ‘as’ is also used to introduce metaphors, and clearly that’s not implying two events are happening at the same time. Also, there are instances where a word ending in -ing is not kicking off a dependent clause.
But what do I mean?
Examples with ‘as’:
As Frank opened the fridge, the leftovers fell onto his feet
Frank opened the door for Sally as she walked up
These don’t happen at the same exact time. In the first instance, he opens the fridge and then the leftovers fall out. So it’s better to write it that way:
Frank opened the fridge and the leftovers spilled onto his feet.
‘As’ constructions can also be a flag that you have your stimulus and response reversed, like in the second instance. Those two actions aren’t happening at that exact same instant. In fact, Sally walking up is the stimulus for Frank opening the door. So this would be clearer written this way:
Sally walked up, hips swaying. Frank grinned and opened the door.
Not the most exciting prose, but you get the idea. While I’m analyzing my ‘as’ constructions, I also check to make sure I don’t have my response before my stimulus.
For more explanation on catching these and similar types of phrases, see Janice Hardy’s post: Don’t Tell Me Why: Words That Often Tell, Not Show
Examples with ‘-ing’:
Walking down the sidewalk, Sally winked at Frank as she passed him
I also threw in an ‘as’ construction just to show how easy it is to fall back on these types of constructions. Here, the first clause is a participial phrase, and she can’t be doing the winking and passing of Frank the whole time she’s walking down the sidewalk.
There can be other issues to check for with -ing constructions that comprise a participial phrase, like misplaced modifiers, and using these in action scenes. Generally, these types of phrases suit more quiet, contemplative scenes. When action hits, use simple past tense verbs.
The example could be revised to show like this:
Sally sauntered down the sidewalk, her new silk skirt making her feel like the cutest knees of any bee’s knees. Oh, there’s Frank, the sly dog, looking all sexy leaning against the picnic table. She winked.
Again, the prose I was just having fun with and the metaphor probably doesn’t even make sense, but hey, I need to get this blog posted. You get the idea 😉 This draws the reader in more and shows the actions in order.
When I analyze my -ing constructions, I also check to make sure:
- It’s not a misplaced modifier
- That I’m not telling instead of showing
- That I’m not in an action scene
- That there’s a comma after the participial phrase
For more information and explanation of why this could be a flag that you’re telling and not showing, see #3 at this post by Shirley Jump: Show Not Tell: What the Heck is that Anyway?
So, searching for these can be tedious, and since they’re both flags for the same thing, I combined them into a macro!
The SimultaneityCheck Macro:
Sub SimultaneityCheck() ' ' SimultaneityCheck Macro ' ' Highlights words that might indicate simultaneous actions that aren't possible, ' or that stimulus and response are out of order ' "&chr(10)&"Written by Angela Quarles @angelaquarles ' Options.DefaultHighlightColorIndex = wdYellow Selection.Find.ClearFormatting Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting Selection.Find.Replacement.Highlight = True 'Finding as constructions With Selection.Find .Text = "as" .Replacement.Text = "as" .Forward = True .Wrap = wdFindContinue .Format = True .MatchCase = False .MatchWholeWord = True .MatchWildcards = False .MatchSoundsLike = False .MatchAllWordForms = False End With Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll 'Finding words that end in -ing With ActiveDocument.range.Find .Text = "<[! ][! ]@ing>" .Replacement.Highlight = True .Replacement.Text = "^&" .Forward = True .Wrap = wdFindStop .Format = True .MatchWildcards = True .Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll End With ' This will unhighlight certain -ing words Dim range As range Dim i As Long Dim TargetList ' list of terms to unhighlight. There's probably a more elegant way to exclude them within the code that highlights, but this works too ' be careful of adding a noun like 'meeting' or 'being' (as in human being) which also acts as a verb TargetList = Array("something", "nothing", "everything", "anything", "morning", "evening", "ding", "king", "ping", "sing", "wing", "zing", "bing", "thing", "things", "happening", "bring", "sting", "ring", "starling", "seedling", "swing", "annoying", "breeding", "exciting", "stimulating", "interesting", "unflinching", "appalling") For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList) Set range = ActiveDocument.range With range.Find .Text = TargetList(i) .Format = True .MatchCase = False .MatchWholeWord = True .MatchWildcards = False .MatchSoundsLike = False .MatchAllWordForms = False Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True range.HighlightColorIndex = wdNoHighlight Loop End With Next End Sub
Revisit Jami’s post to learn how to add a macro to Word and add this one to your arsenal and soon you’ll be fixing those problem areas!
Do you use macros to help with editing and polishing? What do you like to use them for? New to macros and have questions? Ask and I’ll see if I can answer.