Guest post from Writing Center tutor Thomas.

It’s often said that great papers aren’t written, they’re re-written.  To be fair, after finishing a draft, it can be a daunting task to revisit your writing.  Fortunately, every computer comes equipped with an valuable tool that can kick-start the process:  the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-F.  This feature enables us to look for virtually anything that we know to be a pattern of concern in our writing.  Here are a few examples:

Repeated or Problem Words

  • Perhaps your analysis often hinges on “go-to” words such as displays, reveals, pertains, connects, shows, or adjectives like interesting, important, Rather than changing these arbitrarily, Ctrl-F allows us to see all the places we’ve used a given word and determine where they can be used most effectively.
  • Perhaps a professor or peer has questioned your use of a particular word… Perhaps you have a suspicion that you rely on a given word without truly knowing it is the best word to use…
  • Ctrl-F, which also features a “Replace” option, enables a quick opportunity for rephraising—especially considering Word’s built-in Thesaurus tool, located under the Review tab on the taskbar next to the Spell Check button.

Grammatical Quandaries

  • The same tool can be beneficial in discerning how frequently you use certain punctuation symbols. If you tend to forget to eliminate contractions in your academic writing, simply enter an apostrophe in the search bar of the Ctrl-F
  • Perhaps you conflate dashes, semicolons and colons while writing? You can utilize Ctrl-F to review your usage of them as well.

Analytical Fallacies

  • If you are analyzing texts in your writing, Ctrl-F can be a useful tool to locate references to the text’s author, which might have been substituted in the heat of composition for “the speaker” (in the case of poetry) or “the narrator” (in the case of fiction).
  • If you are responding to or incorporating other authors or critics, researchers or sources in your writing, searching for their names can helpin ensuring that your voice doesn’t merge with the voices of those whom you are quoting.

In all of these cases, when we have finished a paper’s initial draft(s), using Ctrl-F as a starting point to proofread is less intimidating than beginning at the first sentence of the paper and working your way through the bulk of the composition piece by piece.  When struggling to keep proofreading from being delayed or rushed or haphazard, Ctrl-F can become the first step in changing that negative cycle.

Using Ctrl-F

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