Highlight Test

What is your favorite writing tool?

Ours is the Highlight Test. Editing Addict frequently recommends this tool—not just to novices—but also to our more experienced Writing Addicts.

How does the Highlight Test work? It helps writers see crutches in their writing—words or phrases leaned on…perhaps a little too much. As writers, we need those crutches at time in our lives—they make walking a success. The question becomes, what do we do with the crutches when we are prepared to run?

How to take the Highlight Test:

  • Use the FIND function, and search for key words that you overuse
  • Highlight all of them—ALL OF THEM
  • Read your manuscript again.
  • If you begin to get annoyed at all the highlighted words, guess what? So will your reader.
  • It’s time to remove some of those crutches, and see your writing get stronger, able to stand on it’s own.

Now, tell us your favorite writing tool!

15 thoughts on “Highlight Test

  1. Dave Smith

    OK–I am not too polished or honed, being more of a closet writer. I do use dictionary.com and Google a lot. The power of the internet! Looks like this site has great potential if I ever come out of the closet. (overused phrase?) 🙂

  2. Emjay Luby

    An online thesaurus is a big help. Once I find a synonym, I use the find/replace tool to change out a good percentage of overused or commonplace words. Another tool I highly recommend is a God-given one — the voice. I can read a passage silently several times and not see a problem with it, but when I read it out loud, the awkward phrases and overused words jump out at me.

  3. Theresa Meals

    Every writer has their own favorite things–the tools of the trade which help them shine. Here are a few of mine. Laptop Cushion. Yes, I know they CALL them laptops, but after a few hours they turn into toast-your-thigh-tops. Also, the cushion lifts the computer up to a more comfortable height for typing. I’m not much for typing at a desk, so this tool is a must for me. The Emotion Thesaurus. I saw this book advertised on a blog a while back and it’s become my #1 go-to reference. As a writer, you try hard not to SAY the emotion your character is feeling. “Mary was sad.” Instead, you try to SHOW the emotion by the way the character looks or acts. Her mouth turned down. Mary’s shoulders hunched (or shook). I avoid choosing from the words/descriptions offered in the book, but use them to trigger my own imagination. AutoCrit Editing Wizard. I had my doubts when I saw this subscription-based website that promised to improve your writing. But, after struggling for years with not seeing my own repeated words and phrases (how many times can I use the word “that” in one page?), I gave it a try. You cut and paste a section of your writing into the wizard and the website provides you a report on repeated words, phrases, cliches, pronouns, etc. It’s no replacement for a good critique group, but it’s helped clean up my submissions so they my friends can focus more on word choice and story flow. A Timer. There are days when I feel like Dug in the movie UP. You remember the cute dog who could talk, thanks to his high-tech collar? He’d be rambling along on some topic and then–SQUIRREL! There are far too many squirrels in my writing day, if you know what I mean. E-mail, Facebook, and Twitter are the worst. But, as a a self-described social media addict, I’m not the type who can just shut off the modem and lose myself in the story. So how do I focus? I set a timer for 15-20 minutes and then work like crazy. When the timer beeps, I can check FB, or I can reset it and continue. It’s a mind game for me. Usually once I get on a roll, I don’t want to stop. But it helps me from thinking, ugh–four hours of writing. I’ll just check FB, first… Then *poof* the time is gone before I know what happened. Pandora.com. Another thing that helps with my SQUIRREL moments is a little light music. I used to listen to my iPod, but I’ve grown attached to Pandora lately. You can choose specific channels or genres of music and the website will begin playing songs it thinks you will like. While writing quiet scenes, I use instrumental hymns. If I’m writing high-action, I use movie scores. It works like a charm. My editor, Ramona Richards, mentioned on FB that she likes to use this 3 hour Youtube video of ocean waves. …And to be perfectly honest, my best tool might be coffee. And cozy slippers. 🙂

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