Smart Searching Collections for Better Writing

I’m currenlty in the fine-tuning stage of my manuscript and I have an idea that would make this process easier.

To tighten my words, I’m going through the manuscript looking for the verb ‘to be’ (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, etc.), empty adverbs ( words that end in …ly), and poor suffixes (…ize, …ness, …ing words).

This is all done to tighten my writing. I try to get rid of as many adverbs as I can and use stronger verbs than the default ‘to be’. Currently I have a few saved searches (as collections) that flag these words for me. I have one with all the ‘to be’ verbs saved as a search. One searching for ly ending adverbs, and another with ize, ness, ing ending suffixes. They work pretty well to flag certain words as I’m going through the manuscript.

However, I’m finding that the search isn’t specific enough. There is no way to tell the search to look for a series of specific words. My ‘to be’ verb collection will find all the ‘to be’ verbs but it will also find words like believe, wash, bear, polish, his, etc. Basically it goes above and beyond its duty and highlights a lot of words which aren’t a problem.

I think this could be helped by being able to add quotes to your searches. Similar to google or spotlight, adding quotes would allow you to look for many Exact Words at once.

Currently my To Be verb collection looks like this (Any Word option selected): am are is was were there’s there’re be being

What I’m suggesting is that it look like this: “am” “are” “is” “was” “were” “there’s” “there’re” “be” “being”

This way the collections could see all of the ‘to be’ verbs at a glance. Similarly being able to search for words ending in ly by searching “…ly” would be incredibly helpful in flagging those pesky adverbs, without finding all kinds of other ly words. The potentials of this feature seem incredible to me. One could create a collection with all of the Words and Expressions Commonly Misused from the Elements of Style, or a list of cliché expressions (that are best to avoid), essentially flagging your bad writing habits with the click of a collection.



I’m not sure quotes would be the solution, because what if you wanted to search for a word that is common but you know appears in quotes in the instance you want to find it?

However, I do agree that the search options are rather basic, and it is on my mid-term “to do” list to improve this and make the search feature a little more powerful, which would include some way of finding whole-word phrases, multiple phrases and so on. I can’t give a definite time frame on this, but it is on the list.

All the best,

Hi Keith, thanks for taking the time to write back. I’m glad more advanced searching is planned for later.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now trying to figure out what the best solution would be. I think the quote system works just because of its familiarity and simplicity. Anyone who uses google or spotlight probably already knows how it works but you’re right about its limitations.

Square or curly brackets might be a good solution as they’re rarely used in prose.


I don’t know if they provide the interface components in XCode, but the Mail Rules interface in Apple’s Mail application would probably be the easiest for both novices and power users. “Match [any/all] of the following” allow the user to specify if case matters for each item. That way, all characters can be searched for, even quotes and brackets.

Maybe even allow regular expressions if there’s a regex search method available in Cocoa.

Yes yes yes regex. Wildcards and nots! :exclamation:

Y’know, in your spare time.

On the list for 3.0.