Tag Archives: wildcards

Wildcards Are Nitro for Your Find & Replace

You know how to search for exact words and phrases. Add wildcards to your terms and you’ll give Find and Replace a nitro boost!

What Wildcards Are

Wildcards are sort of tiny code that can stand in for a category of characters, letting you search for more than exact matches. You may have already use the wildcard in an online search: the asterisk (*) can be used to say “any character”. That makes a search for Adri*nne show results for Adrianne as well as Adrienne and even Adrionne or any other character where the * is, for example. Wildcards can also be used to create a search for a range, such as values between the numbers one and seven: [1-7].

Expand the Advanced Find and Replace dialog to access the wildcards option.

How to Use Wildcards

In Word, expand the Advanced Find and Replace dialogue box and then select the Use Wildcards option (see figure).

For a summary of some of the wildcards most useful when copyediting, look at the table on page 50 of the book. One of the more advanced uses is to break content into “expressions” that can then be rearranged.

Troubleshooting

Turn off Track Changes before doing a Find and Replace using wildcards to avoid messy errors.

book cover cropped to banner size
For more tips on working with Find and Replace, start on p. 47 of the book.


Got a gnarly Word problem? Submit your problem and we’ll try to answer it in the new Q&A thread.


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Image by Onur Ömer Yavuz from Pixabay.

Track Changes, the Enemy of Wildcards

Today’s tip comes from page 13 of the 2nd edition of Editing in Word:

Turn off Track Changes when using wildcards in a find and replace.

What Are Wildcards?

Wildcards are the elements that tell Word to do things like:

  • search for a range of numbers — example: [0-9],
  • or to treat search text as chunks of content — example \1 and \2.
book cover cropped to banner size

Find out more in the Wildcard section of the book, starting on page 49 of the 2nd edition.

The Track Changes Snafu

With Track Changes turned on, wildcard find and replace (F&R) will mess up the results in a variety of creative ways. The image below gives one common example.

With TC turned on, this F&R using wildcards gives us 19722–020 instead of 1972–2020.

The Solutions

Turn Track Changes off to make a change using wildcards. Leave a comment explaining that the change was made silently (without tracking) or mention that in your transmittal memo.

If the changes simply must be tracked, use the Compare Docs function after the F&R to provide the markup (you could even label those changes as having been made “by global F&R”).

Or, more laboriously: include only highlighting or font colour change in the replace field and then find that formatting to make the changes manually with tracking turned on. It’s a laborious way to make sure you don’t miss any instances that need changing.

book cover cropped to banner size

Learn more in the Macros section of the book, starting on page 75 of the 2nd edition. For Compare Docs guidance, look on page 16.



Got a gnarly Word problem? Submit your problem and we’ll try to answer it in the new Q&A thread.


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By practicing one tip each week, you can invest 13 hours this year into professional development. To search the blog, use the orange bar right above this.


© This blog and all materials in it are copyright Adrienne Montgomerie on the date of publication. All rights reserved. No portion may be stored or distributed without express written permission. Asking is easy!