Changing Smart Quotes to Primes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 22, 2020)

Mina's document uses smart quotes. This means that apostrophes after digits (such as 27' meaning 27 feet) need to be manually changed to prime marks. Mina wonders if there is a way, using Find and Replace, to change all apostrophes after digits to primes and all quote marks after digits to double primes.

The easiest way to do this is to follow these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Proofing.
  3. Click AutoCorrect Options button. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  4. Make sure the AutoFormat As You Type tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  6. Make sure the Straight Quotes with Smart Quotes option is cleared.
  7. Click OK to dismiss the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  8. Click OK to dismiss the Word Options dialog box.

These steps effectively turn off smart quotes, but it doesn't change any smart quotes already existing in your document. (It is step 5 that controls the option.) Now you are ready to do your find and replace operation:

  1. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  2. Figure 2. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  3. Enter the following in the Find What box: ^#'
  4. Enter the following in the Replace With box: ^&'
  5. Make sure you aren't searching for any formatting or using any formatting in the replacement text.
  6. Click the Replace All button.
  7. Replace the contents of the Find What box with two apostrophes. (That's not a quote mark, but two actual apostrophes.)
  8. Replace the contents of the Replace With box with a single apostrophe.
  9. Click the Replace All button.

Note that in step 2 there is a trailing apostrophe, along with the same in step 3. This means you are first replacing any number followed by an apostrophe with that original number and apostrophe followed by another (a second) apostrophe. This is why you need to perform steps 6-8, to get rid of the extra apostrophe.

When done, you can repeat the same steps, but using quote marks in steps 2, 3, 6, and 7. Close the Find and Replace dialog box, and then repeat the earlier steps to turn smart quotes back on (step 5). The result is that you end up with primes instead of smart quotes (or smart apostrophes) after your digits.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7691) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

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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