Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Highlight Words from a Word List.

Highlight Words from a Word List

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 6, 2018)


Paul has a document that he needs to check against a word list contained in another document. If the document being checked contains one of the words in the list, then the word in the document (not in the word list) needs to be highlighted by being made bold. The word list is large, on the order of 20,000 words, and Paul is wondering what the best way to do this is.

There are two ways you can proceed. The first is to write your own macro that will do the comparisons for you. If you put the words you want checked into a document named “checklist.doc” in the C: drive, then the following macro can be used:

Sub CompareWordList()
    Dim sCheckDoc As String
    Dim docRef As Document
    Dim docCurrent As Document
    Dim wrdRef As Object

    sCheckDoc = "c:\checklist.doc"
    Set docCurrent = Selection.Document
    Set docRef = Documents.Open(sCheckDoc)

    With Selection.Find
        .Replacement.Font.Bold = True
        .Replacement.Text = "^&"
        .Forward = True
        .Format = True
        .MatchWholeWord = True
        .MatchCase = True
        .MatchWildcards = False
    End With

    For Each wrdRef In docRef.Words
        If Asc(Left(wrdRef, 1)) > 32 Then
            With Selection.Find
                .Wrap = wdFindContinue
                .Text = wrdRef
                .Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
            End With
        End If
    Next wrdRef

End Sub

All you need to do is have the document open that you want checked, and then run the macro. If the document containing the words to check is named differently or in a different location, just change the line that sets sCheckDoc so that it has a different full path name for the document.

Basically, the macro grabs each word from the word list and then does a Find and Replace operation using that word in the document. If you have many, many words in the word list, then the macro can take quite a while to run—20,000 Find and Replace operations is quite a few!

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1173) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Highlight Words from a Word List.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Positioning the Cursor in a New Document

Creating special templates is a great way to establish "standards" for your documents. With a little ingenuity you can ...

Discover More

Changing Section Headers

Add subtotals to a worksheet and you can instruct Excel to start each new subtotal section on a new printed page. You may ...

Discover More

Printing Documents without Markup

If you have a document with Track Changes turned on, you can accumulate quite a bit of "markup" in it. Here's how you can ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Copying a File in VBA

Need to have your macro copy a file from one place to another? It's easy to do using the FileCopy command, described in ...

Discover More

Repaginating Your Document in a Macro

When processing a document with a macro, you may need to have the macro repaginate the text. It's easy to do using the ...

Discover More

Changing Built-in Word Commands

Want to replace Word's internal commands with your own macros? It's easy to do if you know the key discussed in this tip.

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is five more than 3?

2018-02-20 03:07:45

Ken Endacott

The macro will only find words that have a following space which means that it misses words at the end of a sentence or paragraph or words that are immediately followed by a character such as semi-colon.

To fix this change the line:
.Text = wrdRef

.Text = Trim(wrdRef)

2018-02-19 16:21:58


When I try to use this macro, it does partial words as well. I'm pretty new to macros and visual basic, but I noticed that it contains the code "matchwholeword = true". Is there a reason this isn't working for me?

2018-01-08 13:19:54


So smart. This is excellent, thanks!

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.