Thursday, 3 February 2011

Search & Replace or Search & Reproach?

I've been rewriting my first novel this past month. When I say rewriting I don't mean a little tweak here and there, I mean cutting out entire scenes, killing off some characters and resuscitating others.

Anyway, when I got to the end I realized I had to change my hero's name. Well, I must be honest, it wasn't me being clever, it was Julie Cohen nudging me to consider my mistake. So there I was on page 1 of my manuscript summoning the Search & Replace window to change the name. However, I've suffered many disasters in the past with the S&R -forgetting to activate the Whole Word and Match Case options may prove catastrophic- and my hand began to tremble as the cursor hovered over Replace All so I decided to go for the safe alternative, i.e. replace them one by one.

If you're not careful, changing Mac to Tom indiscriminately might make your characters eat tomaroni, hold a tomhine gun or put on a tom for the rain. On the other hand, changing Tom for Mac might make them eat macatoes, stroke a maccat or leave it till macorrow.

In fact I mentioned my fear of Search & Replace on twitter and I got several examples of Word disasters:

Miranda Dickinson, author of Fairytale of New York changed Eric for Zac and ended up in Amzaca.

Word can change your story of its own accord too. The autocorrect option may drive your story in a completely new direction:

Susanna Kearsley author of Mariana found her Sir Geoffrey de Mornay of Crofton Hall turned into Sir Ego de Moron of Crouton Hall, her swordfights turned into swordfish and the approaching hoofbeats into approaching houseboats. It certainly gave the plot an extraordinary turn.

Julie Cohen author of Getting Away With It on the other hand nearly had her hero Angus re-baptised as Anus which would probably have sent her book to the erotica section in bookshops.

So, as much as I love Word, I know it can betray you when you're not looking and nothing must prevent us from reading through our work once we've finished it. A single click could make so much damage to a manuscript.

Have you had any Word disasters?

Recent posts