Word tip: smart find and replace

One of the many superpowers Word has that writers will often need to use is the find and replace tool. You probably have used it yourself–for example, when you’re changing a character’s name and want to make sure you get every instance in the manuscript changed.

Let’s look at that example to start. The character you named Wesley is going to be called Lance now. So you hit ctrl-h:

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and click Replace All. Simple.

Oh, but wait. You called him Wes most of the time, didn’t you? Better replace those too.

And then you proofread, and find this:

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Whoops. Time to unleash the power of search and replace.

Start by clicking the “More” button at the bottom left corner of the dialog box, and behold:


Many more juicy options! In this case we’re going to select two of them:

  • Match case will make sure that only instances of Wes will be replaced. That means westerly and awesome won’t be affected.
  • Find whole words only will ensure that only Wes will be replaced.¬†West Egg won’t become Lancet Egg.

This will take care of almost all of the instances of Wes in your manuscript. Just to make sure, though, we’ll search for Wes without the Find whole words only option, and see…

searchfail 2


So you’re still going to have to go through the manuscript with the search tool and scrutinize every Wes that appears. It might even be worth looking for wes, just in case. But by using the search and replace features that Word provides, your task is much easier.

Next up: Searching for and replacing special characters.


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