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What You Don’t Know About Find and Replace in Microsoft Word

11 October 2011

In his continuing quest to find intelligent life in the design of Microsoft Word, Passive Guy discovered an article that amazed him.

Find and Replace is among the most mundane of functions. If you’ve written a book with a heroine named Sue and decide she should really be Ermalline, you tell Word to find all the places where Sue appears and turn them into Ermalline. Click, boom and it’s done, including a sentence that says, “So Ermalline me!”

PG knew about searching for formatting and replacing it, e.g. search for Bold and replace it with Italics, and searching for styles, e.g., searching for Header 2 and replacing it with Header 1. You probably knew that too. If you didn’t, you know it now.

But, he didn’t know about the following:

You can search for:

Singular and plural noun forms

For example, replace “apple” with “orange” at the same time that you replace “apples” with “oranges”.

All adjective forms

For example, replace “worse” with “better” at the same time that you replace “worst” with “best”.

All tenses of a root verb

For example, replace “sit” with “stand” at the same time that you replace “sat” with “stood”.

  1. On the Edit menu, click Find or Replace.
  2. If you don’t see the Find all word forms check box, click More.
  3. Select the Find all word forms check box.
  4. In the Find what box, enter the text you want to find.
  5. If you want to replace the text, enter the replacement text in the Replace with box.
  6. Click Find Next, Replace, or Replace All.
  7. If the replacement text is ambiguous, click the word that best matches the meaning you want.

For example, “saw” can be both a noun and a verb; click “saws” to replace nouns, or click “sawing” to replace verbs.

. . . .

Use wildcards to find and replace

For example, use the asterisk (*) wildcard to search for a string of characters (“s*d” finds “sad” and “started”).

  1. On the Edit menu, click Find or Replace.
  2. If you don’t see the Use wildcards check box, click More.
  3. Select the Use wildcards check box.
  4. Enter a wildcard character in the Find What box. Do one of the following:
    • To choose a wildcard character from a list, click Special, click a wildcard character, and then type any additional text in the Find what box.
    • Type a wildcard character directly in the Find what box.
  5. If you want to replace the item, enter what you want to use as a replacement in the Replace with box.
  6. Click Find Next, Replace, or Replace All.
. . . .

[Continuing on Wildcards]

To find:

The beginning of a word

Type <

For example, <(inter) finds “interesting” and “intercept”, but not “splintered”.

The end of a word

For example, (in)> finds “in” and “within”, but not “interesting”.

One of the specified characters

Type [ ]

For example, w[io]n finds “win” and “won”.

Any single character in this range

Type [-]

For example, [r-t]ight finds “right” and “sight”. Ranges must be in ascending order.

Any single character except the characters in the range inside the brackets

Type [!x-z]

For example, t[!a-m]ck finds “tock” and “tuck”, but not “tack” or “tick”.

Exactly n occurrences of the previous character or expression

Type {n}

For example, fe{2}d finds “feed” but not “fed”.

 

Link to the rest at Microsoft

So, placing your right hand over your heart, did any of you who spend your days and nights with Microsoft Word know all of these variations on Find and Replace?

You would think that programmers who put together these features could get Styles to not behave in the bizarre ways they always do with PG, such as changing the one word PG wants to italicize to not-italic and every other word in the paragraph to italic.

But PG shouldn’t be a complainer.

Writing Tools

13 Comments to “What You Don’t Know About Find and Replace in Microsoft Word”

  1. Some new tips here. I’m familiar with a lot of what you’ve posted, but some of the wild cards are new (or I never found a need to use them). I only recently discovered the ‘all forms of the word’ option. And when I changed James to Frank, I didn’t remember that my character had watched a James Bond movie, so that became Frank Bond–but I caught it.

    I shall save this post.

    Terry
    Terry’s Place
    Romance with a Twist–of Mystery

  2. It is possible to search for a specific word by formatting and to replace it with specific formatting (or lack thereof).

  3. I knew some of these but not all of them, but now I have this article bookmarked and will become a formatting guru to the non cognoscenti who don’t know my secret source is PG.

    • PG is definitely not feeling like one of the cognoscenti about Word at the moment, Kat.

      • Perhaps the intellegentsia, then. Or some other Latin word entirely?

        I’ve been using word since before Windows, and yes, time really does extend that far back along the Z axis. I didn’t know most of those tips. What a find this is!

        Thanks, PG.

  4. I use the find part for another reason. If I am writing in chapter 12 and need to verify what characters did in chapter 2, I use find to look for key words. It’s much faster to find that way instead of scrolling through half the manuscript.

  5. Great tips. I did not know it could do that. However. Considering the asshattery that I run into with Word’s grammar suggestions, I am not sure I would trust it to correctly identify only the instances where a noun-and-verb word is being used as one type. Anyone with experience on this to weigh in?

  6. Thanks a lot!
    This is exactly one of those posts that makes the time spent exploring the blogosphere worthwhile.

    I’ve switched from MSWord to OpenOffice and am going to see if these functions are the same there.

  7. Is this the nerd post for the week? I love it! The Word wildcard system is based on standard regular expressions, and it’s a real time saver for eBook formatting. The formatting inspector tool in Word is useful too. If you really want to get geeky to save some time, you should also check out the implementation of macros.

    • Good points, Paul. I finally woke up and started using some macros in an ebook formatting job I did for Mrs. PG a couple of days ago and it speeded up the process immensely.

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