Tech Tips

What You Can Do with Find and Replace: Part II

The first article of this series—‘What is Find and Replace? And Why You Should Be Using It’—introduced you to Word’s Find and Replace dialogue box and the many options at your disposal when creating a Find and Replace search. The next article in the series—‘What You Can Do with Find and Replace: Part I’—offered four practical examples of the usefulness of the Find and Replace function for any author or editor. This article now presents a further three examples, chosen to demonstrate the capacity of Find and Replace to assist with otherwise very time-intensive tasks.

Replace One Style with Another

Using the More > Format > Style menu, it is possible to find all instances of a certain style in your document and replace it with another. This is useful in long documents that have been written over time (and may have become confused in their style use), or documents that have been compiled from separate files with their own unique styles.

For example, assume you are putting together a manuscript with chapters written by multiple authors. One author has used the default Heading 1 as their main heading. Another author has created their own ‘H1’ style, and a third author has created a style called ‘Chapter Heading’. Once you have decided which of these headings you want to apply to the whole document (e.g. Heading 1), you can change the other styles quickly to match:

  1. In the Find what box, don’t type anything. In More > Format > Style, choose H1.
  2. In the Replace with box, don’t type anything. In More > Format > Style, choose Heading 1.
  3. Replace All
  4. In the Find what box, don’t type anything. In More > Format > Style, choose Chapter Heading.
  5. The Replace with box should still say ‘Heading 1’.
  6. Replace All

All instances of H1 and Chapter Heading have now been set as Heading 1.

Replace a Particular Word with a Hyperlinked Version of That Word

The need to replace selected text with a hyperlink is most likely to arise in corporate documents. For example, it may be necessary to hyperlink to a set of Terms and Conditions whenever these are mentioned in a document. The slow way to do this would be to run a Find search for ‘terms and conditions’ and then manually insert the hyperlink at each instance. To speed this tedious process up dramatically:

  1. Locate any instance of Terms and Conditions.
  2. Insert the necessary hyperlink in the usual way.
  3. Copy the hyperlinked text to the clipboard (Ctrl + C).
  4. Open Find and Replace.
  5. In the Find what box, type ‘terms and conditions’.
  6. In the Replace with box, type ^c (The special character for ‘Clipboard contents’).
  7. Choose Replace or Replace All, depending on what is more appropriate for your document (i.e., do you need every instance of ‘Terms and Conditions’ to be hyperlinked?)

This same Find and Replace strategy can be used whenever you want to replace with text that has been copied to the clipboard.

Move Footnote Flags to After the Punctuation Mark

Here is a trickier one. It serves not only as a very practical Find and Replace search that you may be able to use, but also as an example of the capacity of Find and Replace to perform multi-stage Replaces.

Imagine you are finalising your thesis in Law. Law theses often have many hundreds of footnotes, each of which has a footnote flag in the text. If you are following the main referencing style for Law students, AGLC, the footnote flag should follow any punctuation mark. It is incorrect to insert the footnote flag before the punctuation.

The Find function makes it easy to locate errors of this kind in a document. Replacing them is more difficult.

  1. In the Find what box, type ^f. (This is the special character for ‘footnote flag’, followed by a full stop.
  2. In the Replace with box, type .^& (This is a full stop, followed by the special character for ‘contents of the Find what box’).
  3. Replace All (Note: The result will be a superscript full stop, the footnote flag, followed by the original full stop. It is okay. Bear with us.)
  4. Leave the Find what box as is, and in the Replace with box, type ^&# (That is the special character for ‘contents of the Find what box’, followed by a hash).
  5. Replace All
  6. In the Find what box, type .#
  7. Make sure the Replace with box is blank.
  8. Replace All (Inserting the hash after the original incorrectly placed full stop and then deleting that full stop and the hash in this way means you are now left with the new superscript full stop only. So let’s fix that.)
  9. In the Find what box, type .  Under More > Format > Font, tick superscript.
  10. In the Replace with box, type .  Under More > Format > Font, make sure superscript is cleared (rather than black or ticked).
  11. Replace All
  12. Repeat for the other punctuation marks: the comma, the colon and the semi-colon.

Certainly, a Find and Replace as complex as this has its place. For a short document with only a few errors, the Find search alone and a manual correction would suffice. However, as long as this multi-step Find and Replace correction process might seem, when compared to manually correcting hundreds of misplaced punctuation marks around footnote flags in a Law thesis—there is no question as to which is the more efficient solution.

How to Learn More

The examples presented here barely scratch the surface of what is possible using Find and Replace. If your interest has been peaked by this glimpse into the wonderful world of advanced Word Find and Replace use, you can read the Word tutorials and the fascinating WordTips website, enrol in a course (for editors in particular), or check out Jack Lyon’s easy-to-use Wildcards cookbook (which helps you to transition from basic to advanced Find and Replace use).

Have fun learning more! And if there is a particular issue that you’d like me to explain in a blog article, just send me an email to let me know.

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