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Find and Replace Functions in Word

id You Know? The more you use a program like Microsoft Word, the more you realize there are countless tips, tricks, and shortcuts to help you work smarter not harder. One such timesaving trick is fully utilizing the Find and Replace tool.

This image shows a magnifying glass hovering over the Microsoft Word logo.

The Basics

Word’s Find and Replace tool allows you to quickly and easily locate words and phrases and replace them. Say you have a report that attributes information to a researcher named “Johnson.” Upon review, you realize that the researcher is actually named “Johnston.” Updating every instance of this error could require you to manually scroll through the report and hope you catch them. Luckily, Microsoft Word has you covered. By opening the Find and Replace tool and clicking on the Replace tab, you can find all instances of “Johnson” and replace them with “Johnston.”

The Find and Replace tool can also help ensure the data you are presenting are accurate. For instance, if you have a table with sales figures that were recently audited and updated, you can search for the now‑outdated numbers and replace them with the accurate figures. The same process for finding and replacing a word or phrase is used.

Advanced Functions

Aside from finding and replacing single characters or phrases, there are in-depth search options you can perform by clicking on the More >> button. Among the nine options presented are the ability to match the case of your search, find all derivatives of a root word, and match the prefix or suffix of a word. Despite these added criteria, this is just where the advanced functions begin.


By clicking on the Format button, you increase your find and replace options exponentially. Doing so allows you to search for a particular font type, paragraph setting (e.g., before and after spacing, line spacing, indentation, alignment), tab structure, language, style or heading level, and more. This can be particularly helpful if, for instance, you are working within the parameters of a style guide that calls for all punctuation following a bolded word or phrase to also be unbolded.

There are three ways to access the Find and Replace tool on a PC: Navigate to the Home tab and select Replace from the Editing category; Press Ctrl +H; Press Fn + F5. There are two ways to access the Find and Replace tool on a Mac: Navigate to the Edit tab, select Find from the dropdown menu, and click replace; Press Shift + Command + H.

In such a case, you can specify that Word find all bolded commas, colons, semicolons, periods, and so on, and replace them with unbolded versions. The only caveat is that a separate search needs to be performed for each type of punctuation. However, because this automated tool helps save time and will find every instance in your document, it is far simpler and quicker than manually scrolling through your document and hoping you catch everything.


Clicking on the Special button allows you to search for formatting marks, less common punctuation (e.g., en and em dashes, nonbreaking spaces and hyphens), and myriad other characters. Say the style guide you are following calls for all numbers from one to nine to be spelled out. Clicking on the Special button and selecting Any Digit will scour your document for Arabic numerals and present you with the option to spell them out. The caveat with this option is that you will have to manually type out the spelled-out number. For a more automated option, a separate search needs to be performed to find each number and replace it with the spelled-out version.

The Find and Replace tool is also useful for finding extra hard returns, tabs, or page or section breaks. It is editorial best practice to use before and after spacing in lieu of multiple hard returns. The ability to quickly locate any instances of multiple hard returns and apply the proper spacing will help ensure your document is properly formatted. Tabs or page or section breaks may have been added to your document to help keep content from breaking across multiple pages. But, if additional content was added or removed during editing, these formatting characters can cause unnecessary whitespace or add blank pages to your document. By clicking the Find Next button, you can go through each of them one by one to ensure they are inserted exactly where they need to be.

If you found this insightful, be sure to check out the other posts in our Mastering Office 365 series. To learn more about our capabilities and how partnering with MacroSys can help you meet your objectives, visit www.macrosysrt.com.


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