Self-Editing Tips: Use Ctrl + H to Edit Your Writing

MS Keyboard Shortcuts Are Gold to Edit Your Writing

If you use MS Word on a regular basis to write and edit, you probably already know about the most common keyboard shortcuts. (If you’re not familiar with the long list of Windows keyboard shortcuts out there, check them out now!) In particular, there are several wonderful, useful keyboard shortcuts that will help you level up when you edit your writing.  They open for you a world of time-saving tricks.

Admittedly, my favorite keyboard shortcut is Ctrl + Z, which is “undo.” I frequently make mistakes and immediately want to revert the text or document back to the way it was.

(If only there was an Undo button for life, right? But I’ll settle for Ctrl + Z.)

When you’re an author putting your early-draft manuscript through rounds of self-editing (using this checklist can help!), you can save valuable time and perhaps lower the costs of your professional editing by using a few simple tricks that are built into MS Word.

This article will help you navigate and learn to use one of the most helpful, time-saving keyboard shortcuts available when editing your writing: “Ctrl + H” or “Find/Replace All.” 

"Replace All" Is Misleading: You Need "More"

It’s not as simple as it first sounds. You may hear “Replace All” and think, “Oh! That’s an easy way to edit my writing. I can fix every mistake of the same kind all at once.”

Well, yes, but even more so: no. When you’re using the function for Ctrl + H, there are a few advanced settings to be aware of, and there are a few tricks to make your search-and-find editing sessions easier.

Finding "More"

When you hold the “Ctrl” key while tapping the “H” key, the Find/Replace All pop-up box should open. Select the “More” button in the lower left-hand corner to see the Advanced Menu options. Using these options will level up your results when editing your writing.

Find and Replace All box in MS Word with the "More" button for Advanced menu options circled in red. Helpful for writers editing their own writing.
Click "More" to open the Advanced Settings menu.

Accidentally Replacing Parts of Words

For example, let’s say that while editing your writing, you noticed that you inconsistently used the number “2” and spelled out “two” throughout your manuscript. Now you want to quickly edit and correct all the numbers, according to the Chicago style standards, to ready it for publication. And you want an easy way to fix your number errors.

However, if you simply Find/Replace All appearances of 2 with two at once, without reviewing the advanced settings, you could have problems.

What happens if you use Find/Replace All universally? Well, when that 2 is part of a larger number, like 22 or 287, you’ll end up only replacing the appropriate numeral, creating new errors like twotwo and two87. Neither of these is what you want.

I’ve seen a popular post online (and you might have too) that tells the story of a British publisher that used Find/Replace All with an American book, specifically replacing pants with trousers. Then, the book went to print with occutrousers in the text because the editor did not adjust the advanced settings. Whoops.

How to Search for Whole Words Only

Search for whole words only when editing your writing to ensure greater accuracy
Search for whole words only when editing your writing to ensure greater accuracy.

When you open the Advanced Menu options by clicking on “More,” you’ll see a series of tic boxes in an extended menu. 

The second option down in the left-hand column reads, “Find whole words only.” Select this box to search only for whole words in your Find/Replace all edits. 

To continue our previous example, if you select this option, then search for 2, you’ll see it only brings up instances of 2 that are not a part of larger numbers like 22 or 287

You can see how this would help if you’re searching for pants as an individual/whole world; in that case, no occutrousers

Pro editing tip: 

Using “find whole words only” comes in hand when editing your writing for the word “OK.” People commonly spell/punctuate/capitalize this inconsistently (OK, okay, Ok, Ohkay, O.K.), but the series of letters can be part of many other words.

So if you’re doing a search for ok, it’s appropriate to check the back for “whole words only,” to make sure you don’t pull up words like spoke or stroke or book, look, or took

How many ways have you seen to spell OK? What’s your default?  

Fun fact: CMOS prefers OK but defers to author preference as long as there’s consistency. APA Style does not state a preference, as OK is simply seen as nonacademic and inappropriate.

Personally, I prefer okay, but oh well.

Accidentally Missing Capitalization Errors

Capitalization can be a real pain when you’re searching for words that might be capitalized inconsistently, like asap and X-ray

Again, we have our common offender, OK.

OK is a very commonly used word at the beginning of sentences as well as throughout. So capitalization for it might be all over the place in your manuscript.

Make sure to always check the case if you’re making an edit to a word that the Merriam-Webster dictionary advises specific capitalization. For example, if you want to ensure that any instances of nasa or Nasa become NASA. 

But, in the case of OK, if you know you consistently wrote okay throughout and you want to edit them to OK, do two searches–for okay and Okay--with the case sensitive option turned on to ensure you replace them all with OK.

How to "Match Case" to Self-Edit Your Writing

When you open the Advanced Menu options in the Find/Replace box, you’ll see a tic box next to “Match case.” Check off this box to search for the same capitalization as what you enter in “Find what.” 

Match case to Replace all of the same capitalization when editing your writing
Match case to Replace all of the same capitalization when editing your writing.
Use matchcase and find whole words combined to replace specific words when editing your writing.
Use matchcase and find whole words combined to replace specific words when editing your writing.

Edit Your Writing with A Self-Editing Exercise

Want to practice using these advanced editing options to edit your writing? One good way is to do a thorough round of edits focusing on some of your most overused, easily cut verbiage. 

Not that anything you wrote “must go”…but…probably. 

Two of these overused words/phrases that I am particularly sensitive to are just and a lot of


I challenge you, specifically, to perform advanced searches on your manuscript for these two top offenders. Some people overuse these more than others. *wink* 

To take this exercise even further and give a thorough edit to your writing, check out our blog and the linked video on 29 words you can cut from your novel.

Good luck and happy writing! 

Your Professional Editor

A round of self-editing for your writing is essential, but when you’re ready for a professional touch, contact SRD Editing Services. 

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