Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. 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: Underlining Section References Automatically.

Underlining Section References Automatically

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 26, 2018)

Agnes asked if there is a way to automatically underline all instances of the word "Section" and any ancillary information following the word. For example, a document might contain text such as "Section 2.3(b)(i)" or "Section 5.21" or "Section 12.12(a)" and Agnes wants to find this text and have it all be underlined.

There are a couple of things to try. First of all, you could do a standard Find and Replace, but only if you can somehow make the text a little more "standard." Without some sort of a pattern that can be matched, it is virtually impossible to do a Find and Replace that will find all possible instances of the text.

A possibility, however, is to record a macro that does look at all the possibilities. It wouldn't necessarily be a simple macro, as it would need to find the word "Section" followed immediately by a space, a digit, a period, more digits, and then (optionally) everything up to and including a closing parenthesis. That is quite a bit of text analysis that needs to occur.

The place to start is with a wildcard search. The following search phrase will find the word Section followed by a "number dot number" pattern:

Section [0-9]{1,}.[0-9]{1,}

If this search pattern is used in a macro, then the macro can, after each successful find of the text, start expanding what was found and see if it contains parenthetical characters. The following macro will perform this task.

Sub ULWords()
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    With Selection.Find
        .Text = "Section [0-9]{1,}.[0-9]{1,}"
        .Replacement.Text = ""
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = False
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchWildcards = True
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute
    While Selection.Find.Found
        Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, _
          Count:=1, Extend:=wdExtend
            While Right(Selection.Text, 1) = "("
                Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, _
                  Count:=1, Extend:=wdExtend
                While Right(Selection.Text, 1) <> ")"
                    Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, _
                      Count:=1, Extend:=wdExtend
                Wend
                Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, _
                  Count:=1, Extend:=wdExtend
            Wend
        Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, _
          Count:=-1, Extend:=wdExtend
        Selection.Font.Underline = True
        Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1
        Selection.Find.Execute
    Wend
End Sub

Note that the macro uses a wildcards search at the beginning to find all instances of the word "Section" followed by the "number dot number" pattern. If an instance is found, then it is extended by one character. If that character is an opening parenthesis then the selection is extended until a closing parenthesis is found. This process of finding opening/closing parentheses is continued, and when no more sets are located the entire extended selection is underlined. This process continues until the entire document has been searched.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11516) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Underlining Section References Automatically.

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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