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: Selective Formatting using Find and Replace.

Selective Formatting using Find and Replace

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 2, 2016)


Andy had a document that used the phrase "n-day" quite a bit, and he wanted the "n" to be in italics but the rest of the phrase in regular type. Faced with the task of making the desired formatting change many times over, Andy searched around for a solution using Word's Find and Replace tool.

Andy could search for "n-day" with no problem. However, there was a problem when trying to change just the "n" to italics because Find and Replace only applies formatting changes to the entire Replace With text, not just selected characters.

The solution was to do a two-pass Find and Replace. In the first pass, Andy changed the entire "n-day" phrase to italics. On the second pass he searched for "-day" (without the "n") and replaced it with a non-italics version. The result was just what he wanted, with only the single character in italics.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10777) 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: Selective Formatting using Find and Replace.

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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What is five more than 3?

2016-01-08 17:42:26

Peter Buxton

If you use the 'Search for n- and replace with n- (italic font)' alternative suggested, be careful with hyphenated compound words, like 'non-italics' above.

2016-01-03 20:12:06

Paul Kinnecom

Easier still:

Search for n- and replace with n- (italic font).

2016-01-02 10:35:11


This is a very useful tip.

Thank you for this idea.


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