by C.K. MacLeod
Updated May 31, 2022
One of the easiest ways to improve your writing is to “omit needless words”—words that once removed, make your writing clear (Strunk & White).
The fastest way to find these words in your writing is to run the Needless Words macro* in Microsoft Word. This macro will highlight every needless word, so you can decide if each word is necessary. Not sure what a macro is? See Improve Your Writing with Macros for details.
Below is the script for the macro. You’ll need to add this script to Word’s Visual Basic Application (VBA). See the videos How to Add a Macro to Word, then How to Run a Macro in Word for next steps.
Inspired by Jami Gold’s macros for writers post, I’ve added Janice Hardy’s Words to Avoid list (minus the word “that”) to my version of the macro. The macro is customizable and you can add any list of words you like.
Copy the macro from Sub to End Sub and paste it into Word’s VBA.
‘ Written by Roger Mortis, revised by subcortical, adapted by Jami Gold and tweaked by C.K. MacLeod; further tweaked by Anupam Choudhury; word list by Janice Hardy
Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim StrFnd As String
StrFnd = “then,almost,about,begin,
For i = 0 To UBound(Split(StrFnd, “,”))
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
.Text = Split(StrFnd, “,”)(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdTurquoise
What other word lists could you add to this macro? Insert word lists between the quotations after StrFnd =.
So, what will you do with the highlighted words this macro finds?
*Karen Woodward calls this macro the AddWords macro because you can add any list of words that you want the macro to find. The first version of this macro was written by Roger Mortis, revised by Subcortical, modified for writing by Karen Woodward, tweaked by Jami Gold, tweaked by me, and elegantly tweaked by Anupam Choudhury, making it a true community effort.
Image by Matt Scott