MS Word: highlighting overused words

May 15, 2010

You can use MS Word’s search-and-replace function to weed out weak or overused words.

Here’s how to do it.

  • Select a highlight color from the menu
  • Click “edit” > “replace” (Ctrl+H)
  • Type the word you’re searching for into the “find what” box. You don’t need to type anything into the “replace with” box.
  • Click the “more” button (for Germans, that’s “Erweitern”)

  • Optional for verbs: click “find all word forms” – MS Word will now find all forms of the word (e.g., are, is, was, were…)

  • Place the cursor in the “replace” box. Click “format” and select “highlight” (German: “hervorheben”)

  • Click “replace all”

After you hit “replace all,” you get the total number of occurrences.

To highlight adverbs, type in “ly” in the find box and check “match suffix.” That way, Word finds all words ending in –ly, but not words such as “lying” or “analyze.”

After you are done revising, remove the highlighting by selecting your whole document (Ctrl+A) and choosing “no color” from the highlight section of the menu.

You can also search for formatting, for example when you want to find italicized text. Click on “format” and then on “font” (German: “Zeichen”).

The result is a very colorful document. You can scroll through the document and see where words are overused or repeated too close together.

By the way, this is what MS Word 2010 (beta version) looks like. I love the navigation bar on the left that allows you to jump from chapter to chapter with one click.



  1. […] to weed out all the overused and incorrectly used participles. Here’s the link to the old post. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  2. Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful post.
    Thanks for providing this information.

  3. […] bit too often, especially in your own work. A useful trick here is, when you think you have one, to run a find and replace in your manuscript to see how often it comes up (and potentially to highlight […]

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