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Search and Destroy: Top Ten Uses for Search Functions in Revising Your Paper

In the post on spaces, we mentioned that you can use Google Ngram to find the most-common usage for words. Here are more ways the search function in your word processor, and a good search engine can help:

  1. Defining acronyms/abbreviations/initialisms on first occurrence and using them consistently throughout the text. We suggest you spell out all gene names, acronyms, etc. on first occurrence. As one of the last things you do before you submit a paper, use the search function within your word processing program or website to find both the specific abbreviation and the corresponding term, making sure to spell out the term and define the abbreviation at first use and then use the the abbreviation thereafter (unless journal style dictates otherwise, of course!).
  2. Finding journal style for a specific word or phrase. We like to make each paper look like it belongs in the target journal. Does your target journal italicize Arabidopsis (or use a lowercase “a” in “arabidopsis”)? Use a keyword search for “Arabidopsis” at the journal’s website. Just make sure to get a current paper– some journals have changed usage over time.
  3. Oopsie, did I plagiarize that phrase? Have you used the same phrase a million times? Use your favorite search engine to see if that phrase has been used before… and if the phrase is plagiarized (a good metric is six words in a row). Of course, if you just wrote “Plants, as sessile organisms…”, you can go ahead and delete it.
  4. Catching repeated typos. They happen. Did you write “wide type” once, or mis-spell the name of your target gene? Yep, we’ve seen this, especially for initialisms like PPRs (or was it PRRs?). Once you correct the first occurrence, use your word processor to search for others–these errors can propagate by cut-and-paste errors, or by repeated slips of the fingers.
  5. Zapping verbal tics. Do you have the habit of writing wordy linkers (in order to, was shown to, the results showed that…) or overusing the same word (also, meanwhile…)? Find and delete!
  6. Did I make that up? See whether other people in the field use the same terminology you used or if there is another way they will expect to see something described.
  7. Updating nomenclature, hyphens vs. en dashes, authentic minus symbols, etc. Did you decide halfway through that the line really should be called 35Spro:POP1 instead of POP1-OX or find that your symbol choice did not comply with journal requirements? Find and Replace to the rescue!
  8. Checking with language experts. Not sure when to hyphenate “wild type”? Search for your question and look for answers from well-known sources such as Grammar Girl, and of course, Plant Editors.
  9. Removing unwanted spaces. Did something funky happen to the spacing when you converted your PDF to a Word doc, leaving you with three spaces between each word? Fix it with search (hit the spacebar three times) and replace (hit the spacebar once). You can also search for “. “ (a period followed by two spaces), and replace it with “. “ (a period followed by one space) if the extra spaces are between sentences.
  10. Checking that all figures, supplemental figures, and tables are referred to (in numerical order) in your manuscript. When you’ve finalized your text, take quick stock of your related manuscript materials by searching for “Figure”, “Supplemental Figure”, “Table”, etc., starting at the top of your manuscript. Add any missing figure/table references and renumber any that are mentioned out of sequence.

By the way, here’s a bonus tip for using a search engine! Finding a great editing service. Did all these details make your head spin? Get professional help. Make sure to use the keywords “Plant Editors”… or just click here to get started.

Got a question? Get in touch with us here, and follow us on Twitter at @PlantEditors and @PeridotSciComm.