Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Comparing Documents in Word

I've revised my WIP nine times. That's right...nine times. Sometimes, I wonder if anything of the original draft remains.

If only there were some way to see how many changes I've made and how the first version compares to the last.

Oh, but there is! (You knew you could count on me for more Word nerdery, right?)

Using Word's Compare Documents feature, you can compare two documents and see the number of insertions, deletions, moves, and format changes. You could also use it find passages that you deleted that you wish you'd hadn't. Of if you have a critique partner that didn't use track changes and made edits directly in your document.

You'll find the Compare button on the Review tab. Here, I've taken an early draft and the most recent (not final, because hey, it's never final, right?) and selected the option to compare them in a new document.

Once you select your original and revised document, you'll see a new document with all the changes combined (marked in the image below with a blue box).

You can select to see the original document (green circle) and revised document (purple circle) on the right hand side. These will scroll in time with the new document.

The red circled area on the left is the reviewing pane. You can put this either vertically, as above, or horizontally, as a long pane below the other documents. The reviewing pane shows the individual changes, plus a count of all the changes made. And since I'm all about the stats, here are the numbers for my WIP:

4983 revisions.

Funny, it felt like more.

Do you ever use Compare Documents?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Getting all random again

1. My six-year-old daughter asked me to mail this letter. I love her.

2. I received the Irresistibly Sweet Blogger award from Jenna over at Literally YA (thanks Jenna!). She received it from blogger Jenna Cooper. (They're both new bloggers...why not pop over and follow them. Let's show them blogging is still going strong!) Does anyone know another blogger named Jenna I could pass it to? Yeah, I'm weird that way.

3. I won Laurel's Triplicity contest and now have $30 to spend at Amazon. Since I have been on a strict book-buying budget, this is HUGE. My problem...there are so many fantastic books coming out I can't decide. Give me a few suggestions in the comments. PLEASE?

4. Did you know Query Tracker has a forum where you can post and get feedback on your query letter, synopsis, and even your first five pages? All you need to do is register, post your material, and give feedback to other users. I just did this and found it extremely helpful. Generally, the feedback was tactful and constructive (there's always one that could have taken a few extra minutes to word something a little nicer).

5. Last night was one of my worst days as a parent. Tomorrow will be worse. My darling boy has been sick. For seven months. Three bouts of pneumonia, one hospital stay that included four failed attempts to get an IV started, six x-rays, two massive shots of antibiotics in his bottom that left a purple bruise the size of a dollar bill, seven vials of blood drawn, one cystic fybrosis test (supposed to be painless, gave him electrical burns - negative, thankfully), one TB test (still waiting for results), one CT scan (which would tell us if they needed to remove part of his lung -- Thank God, no). And no answers.

My child bore all of this is his quiet, stoic way, saying only "Ouch" and squeezing my hand. Last night we had to tell him that on Friday we will go to the hospital where they will sedate him and stick a camera up his nose and into his lungs to try to figure out what's wrong. I couldn't promise him it wouldn't hurt. I couldn't promise there wouldn't be needles. My quiet child shook for a moment and then burst into heart-rending sobs. He cried as I've never seen him cry. I had -- still have -- no idea how to make him feel better. I look in his eyes and see that silent plea for me to make things OK. I don't know how. And lurking all around this is my own fear of what they'll find. Everything else fades to pale when your child is sick.

6. And yet life must go on. We're going to Chuck E. Cheese today, because pizza, skeeball, and large rat-like mascots can help take the pain away.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Using Word Find to Highlight Common Writing Errors

I use Word's Find function to search out my writing tics (words like just, but) and filter words (heard, saw, felt, thought, remembered), but I really put it through the paces to help me find faulty sentence construction.

Using search strings, I can find all incidents of passive voice construction (was *ing). I can flag participle phrasing to check that actions are not happening simultaneously (more on this below). And finally, to check for repetitive sentence structure (I call it the "I blanked" syndrome... too many sentences beginning with I *ed, like I walked, I jumped, I turned).

To begin, open the Find Dialogue box. In older versions of Word, you can press Ctrl + F to open it. In newer versions, that opens the navigation pane (where you can't use wildcards). You can press Ctrl + H, which will open the Replace Dialogue box. Then, click on the Find tab. Here's what you'll see:

Type in (or paste) your search string in the Find What box. Make sure the Use Wildcards box is checked. Click on the Reading Highlight button and select Highlight All.

This will give you a count of the how many times your search string appears in your document and highlight all occurrences in your manuscript.

Note that once you click in your document (to make edits), it will clear the highlighting and you will have to go through the steps again. Your search string should remain in the box.

Passive Voice
If passive voice is one of your downfalls, this search string:

was [a-z,A-Z]@ing

will show all occurrences of was *ing construction.

Participial Phrases
Take this example: I opened the door, taking the rusty key from my pocket. Obviously, you can't take the key out and open the door at the same time, so this construction must be fixed. For me, my mistakes are usually at the end of a sentence, so the construction tends to be after a comma. So this search string:

, [a-z,A-Z]@ing

finds any phrasing like: I turned, jumping into the breach.

If you use participial phrasing at the beginning of a sentence, you could search on:

. [a-z,A-Z]@ing

which would flag any *ing construction after a period, such as: I turned. Flinging it aside, I vaulted...

Sentence Structure
Since I'm writing in first person, I sometimes end up with too many sentences that begin with "I". The search string:

I [a-z,A-Z]@ed

will show any incidents of I jumped, I turned, and so on. Obviously, it won't catch things like I went, I saw, I read.

So, alternatively, you could use the search string:

. I

which would return any sentence beginning with "I", but only if the previous sentence ended with a period. [That search string is (period)space(I)space]

So there you have it. A couple of ways to use Word Find to reveal your grammatical weaknesses. Any other constructions I've left out?

**And seriously, what is going on with Blogger??? I've been trying to leave comments for days!!!**