Applying Styles and Removing Characters using Find and Replace

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 2, 2017)

2

In reformatting a document, Leah needs to apply the same paragraph style to all paragraphs beginning with (a), (b), (c), and (d). She can use Find and Replace to apply the style, but then she needs to do a second Find and Replace pass to get rid of the (a), (b), (c), and (d) characters. Leah wonders if there is a way to both apply the style and remove those characters in a single pass.

Actually, this can be accomplished with the use of wildcard characters in Find and Replace. Rather than go through all the steps, just remember that you want to do an advanced search (so that the Find and Replace dialog box is displayed), click the More button (if it is available) and then make sure the Use Wildcard check box is selected. Here is what you want to place in the Find What box:

\([a-d)]\)[ ]{1,}(*^13)

This may look, at first glance, like gibberish—particularly if you are not used to using wildcards—but it is fairly straightforward. The backslashes at the beginning tell Word that the immediately following character should be used as a literal character. That means that the following sequence will search for (a), (b), (c), or (d), any of which would be considered a match:

\([a-d)]\)

If you might have other letters in parentheses, you could change the a-d part to something like a-z, so that any lowercase alphabetic character between parentheses would be matched.

The second part indicates that the next characters should be any number of spaces:

[ ]{1,}

This assumes, of course, that the (a), (b), (c), or (d) is followed by at least one (or more) spaces. If some other character might immediately follow the parenthetical—such as a tab or no spaces at all—then this portion of the search pattern will need to be changed to reflect what is in your document.

The final part of the search pattern is this:

(*^13)

This tells Word to find any number of characters (*) up through and including a hard return. In other words, the entire paragraph is selected. The parentheses around this portion of the pattern are important, as they allow whatever matches this portion of the found text to be referenced in the Replace With field of the Find and Replace dialog box. In fact, this is all that should go into the Replace With field:

\1

This tells Word that you want to replace whatever is found with what is in the first set of parentheses in the Find What pattern, which happens to be the entire paragraph minus the (a), (b), (c), or (d) and any trailing spaces. The only other thing you need to do is make sure that for the Replace With field you pick the style you need applied to replacement. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Setting up the Find and Replace dialog box.

Once the Find and Replace dialog box is set up with the proper patterns (as described above), just click on Replace All and you are done.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (4274) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Automatic Lines for Dividing Lists

When preparing a report for others to use, it is not unusual to add a horizontal line between major sections of the ...

Discover More

Large Numbers in the MOD Function

There is a known bug in the MOD function that stops it from working with large numbers and small divisors. This tip ...

Discover More

Turning Off Line Numbering

Need to have line numbering turned off for a paragraph or two? You can accomplish the task by following these steps.

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)

When Replace Doesn't Work

Find and Replace is a great tool, but what are you to do if your find or replace doesn't work as you expect? This tip ...

Discover More

Adding Tags to Text

The Find and Replace capabilities of Word can be used to add HTML tags to your document text. This is easier to do than ...

Discover More

Finding and Replacing Text Boxes

The Find and Replace capabilities of Word are very powerful, but they still come up a bit short when searching for some ...

Discover More
Subscribe

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

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

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 4 + 3?

2017-09-08 00:38:39

Supin R.

\([a-d)]\) should be \([a-d]\) ?


2017-09-05 09:41:41

Patricia

Do you know where I can find a list of wildcard characters? I have seen several examples of the use of wildcard characters, but would like to know more.
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
Subscribe

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.