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.
If passive voice is one of your downfalls, this search string:
will show all occurrences of was *ing construction.
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:
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:
which would flag any *ing construction after a period, such as: I turned. Flinging it aside, I vaulted...
Since I'm writing in first person, I sometimes end up with too many sentences that begin with "I". The search string:
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:
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!!!**