The manuscript I call “Butterflies” is coming along. I’m finally past the point of adding to my draft and onto the polishing phase. And while the process of drafting and editing can vary greatly between writers, there is one thing I believe the majority of us have to work into our editing process.

Getting rid of those darn no-no words.

You know the words I’m talking about – that, just, back, up, to-be verbs. Maybe, like me, you tend to mistype breath/breathe and lead/led. There’s no shame in that as long as you realize and fix the mistypes in editing. The problem is, if you have multiple no-no words, finding each one individually can be time-consuming. So today, I am going to give you all a lesson in Microsoft Word.

introduction to macros

aka Highlighting my No-No Words

Macros are a way to do multiple actions in one step. I happen to love them, and I find using a macro to call out the no-no words in my manuscript gives me a very basic, visual indicator of how my story is built. Too much pink on the page and I know I’m telling and not showing. Yellow tells me I need to check out that word – is it necessary? Did I use it correctly? If yes, move on. If no, edit again.

The way I build macros is quick, easy, and color coded.

For reference, I am using Word 2010 for PC and Word for Mac 2011. Yes, I’m giving you directions for both. You’re welcome.

    1. Collect your no-no list. When writing in the macro, the format for each word will be word in parenthesis, followed by a comma and a space as such: (“word1”, “word2”, “word3”). Build your no-no word list in Notepad or Word and save it. If you intend to have multiple lists, make sure to break up your word lists so each one is surrounded with parenthesis.

      Visual Editor Screen

      Visual Basic Editor Screen

    2. Open Word and hit Alt+F11 (MAC – In your menu, go to Tools > Macros > Visual Basic Editor). Welcome to the Visual Basic Editor (VBE). This is where you’ll build your macro. It is also where you’ll edit one should you need to.
    3. THIS STEP IS FOR PC ONLY: Before you start to use the VBE, on the Tools menu, click Options. In the Options dialog box, on the Editor tab, ensure that all the check boxes are selected.
    4. In the upper-left side of the VBE is the Project Explorer section. This shows all Word files that are currently open. Click on Normal.
    5. Go to the insert menu and select module. You should see a large white box with the words “Option Explicit” open in the workspace. (MAC: You will not see the text, just the window).
    6. Click under “Option Explicit” and paste the following text:


Option Compare Text
Sub NaughtyWords()

Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList

TargetList = Array("word1", "word2", "word3")

For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList)

Set range = ActiveDocument.range

With range.Find
.Text = TargetList(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False

Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdYellow


End With

End Sub


  • Copy and paste your word list from step two to replace (“word1”, “word2”, “word3”). The list begins with TargetList = Array and can be found on the sixth line of text.IF YOU SEE RED TEXT – there is something wrong with whatever text is shown in red. Usually the issue is with the string of words. Make sure the list is all on one line. If not, go to the far left of the second line and hit your backspace key. The text should turn to black if that solved the issue. If not, double-check that your string of words is not missing a parenthesis, comma and quotation mark somewhere.
  • The words after Sub in the second line of macro text is the title of your macro (NaughtyWords in example) – feel free to change it as you wish but leave the word Sub in place.
  • Repeat steps 5 – 13 to add additional macros. I happen to use two – one highlights no-no words. The other highlights to be verbs. It keeps my eyes from bugging out seeing a manuscript bathed in one color.The macro text I supply will highlight your word list in yellow. To change the color, simply replace the wdYellow text from the macro I supply with the proper name for the color you require (example – wdPink). To see the name of the highlight color, click the highlight option from the Home menu then hover over a color. The name will appear.
  • Close the VBE. You are ready to use your macro.



running the macro

How to Run Your Macro

How to Run Your Macro

PC: Go to your View tab and click the dropdown for Macros.
MAC: Tools > Macro > Macros.

Highlight the macro of your choice and click run.

Repeat if you are using more than one.

What you end up with is a document with highlighted words for you to inspect. The highlighting works exactly like formatting so it can be removed using the Home tab > Font > Highlight > No Color.

Macro Results

Macro Results

This macro is now automatically available in every Word doc you open. You can always edit the macro by going to the View Tab > Macro Dropdown > select macro > Edit.

This will come in handy as you finally stop that habit of typing breathe for breath (really, one day I will stop this) or when you realize other words you need to watch out for.

I hope my instructions are clear and the process helpful. Best of luck to you in all your edits.