Changing Formatting for a Portion of Found Text

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated January 4, 2024)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


Susan has a common need to search for very specific text and then change the formatting of only a portion of the text found. For instance, she may need to find "; provided, however" and, if found, underline the two words but not the punctuation or spaces. She can't figure out how to do this using Find and Replace.

There are two fast ways you can do this, and neither of those ways involve using a macro. If your entire need is to simply underline the words, then the first approach will work great in some versions of Word:

  1. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the More button, if it is available. Word expands the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The expanded Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. In the Find What box, type the unformatted text you want to locate. For instance, you would type "; provided, however" without the quote marks.
  5. In the Replace With box, type the exact same text you entered in the Find With box.
  6. With the insertion point still in the Replace With box, click the Format button and then choose Font. Word displays the Replace Font dialog box.
  7. Using the Underline Style drop-down list, choose Words Only. (See Figure 2.)
  8. Figure 2. The Replace Font dialog.

  9. Click OK to dismiss the Replace Font dialog box. You should notice the phrase Word Underline appears under the Replace With box. (See Figure 3.)
  10. Figure 3. Underlining just words in a replacement.

  11. Click on Replace All.

Word makes all the replacements, and just the desired words (provided and however) are underlined. Note, however, that at the beginning of these steps I noted that this approach would only work in some versions of Word. The reason is because some versions of Word include punctuation as part of a valid "word" when it comes to underlining in this manner. Thus, you end up with only the spaces not underlined. In other versions of Word, however, the punctuation is ignored and therefore not underlined. You'll obviously want to test this to see how your version of Word behaves.

If you do, indeed, end up with the punctuation underlined or if you need to do more complex formatting for the replacement text (for instance, you might need to not only underline but make the replacement words bold), then the second approach is best. Follow these steps:

  1. In your document, format the first instance of your "; provided, however" text exactly the way you want.
  2. Select the text you formatted in step 1.
  3. Press Ctrl+C. The text (including the formatting) is now copied to the Clipboard.
  4. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  5. In the Find What box, type the unformatted text you want to locate. For instance, you would type "; provided, however" without the quote marks.
  6. In the Replace With box, type ^c. (Make sure that is a lowercase "c.") This indicates you want to replace any matched text with the contents of the Clipboard. (See Figure 4.)
  7. Figure 4. Ready to do the replacements.

  8. Click on Replace All.

In doing the replacements, Word uses the formatted contents of the Clipboard, and you end up with the formatting you want for instances of the text.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13714) 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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