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: Replacing Spaces in Part Numbers with Dashes.

Replacing Spaces in Part Numbers with Dashes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 21, 2015)

Terry has a document that contains a lot of numeric data. Often, the document has part numbers with spaces in them, such as "422 891A." Terry needs a way to search through the document and find any "digit-space-digit" sequence and replace it with "digit-dash-digit." For instance, "422 891A" would be changed to "422-891A." Terry wonders if there is a way to do this with Find and Replace.

This type of find-and-replace operation can be done quite easily by using the wildcard searching built into Word. Here's the quick version:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click on the More button if it is available.
  3. Select the Use Wildcards check box.
  4. In the Find What box enter "([0-9]) ([0-9])", without the quote marks and with a single space in the middle.
  5. In the Replace With box enter "\1-\2", again without the quote marks.
  6. Click on the Replace All button.

That's it. When the Use Wildcards check box is selected (in step 3), Word allows you to use patterns in the search. In this case, each instance of [0-9] means "match any single digit in the range of 0 through 9." The parentheses around each instance is for grouping purposes that allows what is found within that group to be referenced in the Replace With box. So, essentially, the Find What pattern matches any single digit followed by a space followed by any single digit.

What is then entered in the Replace With box is a set of references to what was found. The \1 and \2 indicators mean "what was found in the first set of parentheses and what was found in the second set of parentheses." So, this means "replace the first digit with itself, followed by a dash, then replace the second digit with itself."

Of course, you may need to get even more specific in the pattern you search for, if it is possible that the digit-space-digit pattern may appear in other places in the document and you don't want them affected. In that case, perhaps your part-number pattern consists of three digits followed by a space and then three more digits and then a single alphabetic character, as shown in the example provided at the first of this tip. If that is the case, then you can search for the following in step 4:

([0-9]{3}) ([0-9]{3})([A-Z])

In this case, you'll immediately note the addition of two instances of {3}. These characters are an indicator that there needs to be three of whatever immediately precedes the indicator. Thus, there needs to be three digits, each of 0 through 9. Also, the [A-Z] characters matches a single capital letter in the range of A through Z.

Also note that there are three sets of parentheses in this Find What pattern. These then can be referenced in the Replace With box (step 5), as follows:

\1-\2\3

Since this search is more specific, there is very little chance that you will replace spaces with dashes where you didn't mean to do a replacement.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10835) 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: Replacing Spaces in Part Numbers with Dashes.

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

Unwanted Weekend Dates in Chart

If you chart data that includes dates along one of the axes, you might be surprised to find out that the chart includes data ...

Discover More

Moving Part of a Footer Down a Line

Setting up a single footer line for your printouts is fairly easy. If you want to move part of the footer down a line so that ...

Discover More

Running a Procedure when a Workbook is Opened

Ever want to have Excel run a procedure whenever you open a workbook? It's not as difficult as you might think. Here's how.

Discover More

The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!

MORE WORDTIPS (RIBBON)

Erratic Behavior of Ctrl+PgDn

Have you ever noticed that when you use Ctrl+PgDn or Ctrl+PgUp that Word may give you results you didn't expect. Here's why ...

Discover More

Adding Quotes

Adding quote marks is normally as simple as typing them from the keyboard. However, if you want to add quote marks around ...

Discover More

Different Layout for a Portion of a Page

Got a document layout that requires a portion of the page to be in one layout and another portion to be in a different ...

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 for this tip:

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. 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 8 - 1?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.

Links and Sharing
Share