Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Special Characters in Pattern Matching.

Special Characters in Pattern Matching

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 16, 2015)

If you are using the powerful pattern-matching engine in Word, you should understand that you cannot search for some special characters in the same way you do when normally searching. In normal Word searching you indicate the start of a special character by using the caret (^) followed by a character that indicates what you are searching for. For instance, ^p will search for a paragraph mark.

When pattern matching is enabled you cannot use all the special characters you normally used in searching. Instead you must use workarounds, as shown here:

Normal Search Pattern Match Meaning
 ^e ^2 Auto-numbered endnote reference mark
 ^f ^2 Auto-numbered footnote reference mark
 ^b ^12 Section or page break
 ^p ^13 Paragraph mark

Note that the workaround for endnotes and footnotes is the same. This means that you cannot differentiate between these characters when pattern matching. In addition, you cannot search for a field (^d) when using pattern matching. Searching for white space (^w) is also a little different. You must type a space (press the Space Bar) and then enter the pattern {1,}. This causes Word to search for one or more spaces.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1443) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Special Characters in Pattern Matching.

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. ...

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