Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 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: Searching for Optional Hyphens.

Searching for Optional Hyphens

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 20, 2021)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


Optional hyphens are used within a document to indicate a place where a word can be hyphenated, if necessary. If it is not necessary, then the word is not hyphenated at the point of the optional hyphen. These special characters are manually created by pressing Ctrl+- (Ctrl and the hyphen key). They are also inserted by using the Hyphenation tool within Word.

At some point you may want to search for optional hyphens within your document. For instance, you may want to delete them or replace them with some other character, such as a real hyphen. To search for optional hyphens, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (In Word 2007 just press Ctrl+F. In Word 2010 or later versions, press Ctrl+F to display the Navigation pane, then click the down arrow at the very right of the Search box in the Navigation pane, and finally choose Advanced Find.)
  2. In the Find What box, enter ^-. Optionally, you can specify the actual character by clicking on the Special button and selecting Optional Hyphen from the list of special characters. (You may need to click on the More button before you can see the Special button.) (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. Set other searching parameters, as desired.
  5. Click on Find Next.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12934) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Searching for Optional Hyphens.

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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