Find (Weak Spots in Your Writing) and Replace (Them)

I always pick up useful tips I can apply to marketing and fundraising copy when I read Daphne
Gray-Grant’s e-newsletter, The Publication Coach.

Using vibrant action verbs instead of the passive ‘to be’ was etched on my brain by my high school English teacher, Mrs. Hunter. But I never thought to use Find and Replace (Control key plus F at the same time when in MS Word) as an editing technique.

Here are some ways to put Find and Replace into action:

  • Build the sense of action and energy in your writing by going on a search and destroy mission for all forms of the verb "to be:
    • I hit "control + F" and type the word "is" in box. Then I hit, "find next"
    • The software then takes me methodically through my report or article, highlighting every time I’ve used the word "is"
    • One by one, I then try to replace each "is" with an action verb
    • And then, if I’m feeling energetic, I do exactly the same thing with: were, was, are, will be.
  • Increase the passion of your copy by replacing conditional tense (could, would) with future tense (will)
    • Find "could/can/would" throughout your document via "Control + F" (as above)
    • For each instance, replace the conditional with a more powerful, positive future tense – will is my favorite. With your gift, we will be able to provide food for sixty more children on a daily basis.

You can probably identify five or more problem areas editable via "find and replace." Identify (or ask your colleague or boss to do it) your most common writing gaffes and weaknesses, and figure out how to put "find  and replace" to work against them. It’s a quick, no cost, little time and fairly painless path to stronger copy.

Nancy Schwartz on February 13, 2007 in Copywriting, Nonprofit Communications, Recommended Resources | 0 comments
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