Writers are not always the most technical of people, and fair enough, but there's one techie thing worth learning about because it makes global editing easier, and that's regular expressions.
Let's say - to pick a random example, not that this would ever happen to me - that your dear agent thinks you have too many verbs of the form was ---ing. Was walking, was looking, was defenestrating, and so on. How to find them?
You can read through the whole ms. Which will take forever. Or you can search for was. This will cut the search time and you won't miss any, but you'll have to check 100 times more was words than you want. You might think to search for "ing ". Because you can have spaces in searches. But like searching for was, there'll be a lot of wasted time.
Or you can click Use wildcards on the find dialog (you need to click More to find it) and write a regular expression. They work like this:
* matches any number of characters
If you click Use wildcards and search for was *ing then that matches was followed by a space, followed by any number of characters, followed by ing. So was looking matches but was crooked doesn't.
You might think that would find everything we want, and indeed it will, but it will also match text like "The fence was crooked but John wasn't looking". The text in red matches because the * matches any sequence of characters, including spaces. We want something slightly trickier. We want to match was followed by a space, followed by and number of text characters ending in ing.
[a-z] matches any one character from a to z.
You can follow this by a @ to mean one or more of the characters between square brackets. So
[a-z]@matches one or more characters between a and z.
What if the first letter of the word after was is a capital? Not a problem, you can have more than one range inside the square brackets.
[a-z,A-Z]@matches one or more alphabet characters, big or small.
So a search string of was [a-z,A-Z]@ing will do the job beautifully. If you're totally paranoid about there being a weird character in the present participle (beats me why, but still...) then you can do this instead:
[!a-z] means any one character except a to z. The ! means match the opposite. So
[! ] matches any character except a space. If you can't see it, I typed a space between the ! and the ].
So a search string of was [! ]@ing is what I'm using to weed the excessive present particples out of my manuscript. It might seem like a lot of effort to work this out, but believe me, it's heaps faster than checking every was within 90,000 words.
There are more wildcards than these. They're all listed on the Special button in the search dialog, so you don't have to remember them all.