Most basic Word training includes a brief introduction to using the Replace command, and it usually goes a little something like this:

“You’ve written a long report and referred to your boss, Kathy Jones, as Cathy Jones all the way through it. Instead of reading the entire report to locate and manually change occurrences of ‘Cathy,’ you can use the Replace command to quickly fix the error throughout the document.”

While that’s a great starting point for showing a class how handy the Replace command can be, simple text replacement is barely the tip of the search-and-replace iceberg. To make the tool truly useful to your students as they tackle day-to-day word processing chores, you might consider sharing some of these additional Replace command tricks:

  • Replace a specific format throughout a document.
  • Eliminate extra spaces after punctuation.
  • Target and fix specific grammar problems.

Let’s look at some simple exercises you can use to demonstrate these tricks to your Word students.

Replacing a format
Suppose you’re working on a document that includes a few dozen underlined book titles, which you instead need to italicize.

  1. Choose Replace from the Edit menu. In the Find And Replace dialog box, click More to expand the Replace tab.
  2. With the insertion point in the Find What text box, click the Format button and choose Font from the drop-down list.
  3. In the Find Font dialog box, select Single from the Underline drop-down list and then click OK to return to the Find And Replace dialog box.
  4. Click in the Replace With text box, click Format, and choose Font again.
  5. Select None from the Underline drop-down list and choose Italic from the Font Style list box, then click OK. Word will display your specifications below the Find What and Replace With text boxes, as shown in Figure A.
  6. Click Replace All, and Word will substitute italics for the underline format throughout the document.

Figure A
Word will show your formatting specifications in the Find And Replace dialog box.

Be sure your students know that Word retains the formatting specifications for the Find What and Replace With text boxes for the duration of the current Word session. If they need to perform a different replacement operation that doesn’t involve those formats, they’ll need to click in each text box and click the No Formatting button to remove the specifications.
Removing extra spaces after punctuation
This chore comes up a lot for users who work with documents created by two-space adherents—those who still insist on typing two spaces between sentences. To eliminate the extra spaces and ensure uniformity in the text, users can run the Replace command on the document.

  1. Choose Replace from the Edit menu. (Clear the formatting left over from the preceding exercise, if necessary.)
  2. In the Find What text box, type a period and two spaces.
  3. In the Replace With text box, type a period and one space.
  4. Click Replace All.
  5. Repeat the process to remove extra spaces after question marks and exclamation points, substituting each character for the period in each replacement operation.

When the time comes to teach your students how to record Word macros, keep this technique in mind. It’s simple, it’s genuinely useful, and it clearly demonstrates the benefits of automating document tasks. Just record the steps outlined above, assigning a button to run the macro. Then, click the button and BOOM: Extra spaces are history.
Using Replace for document cleanup
The final example is a bit different from the first two. Instead of globally fixing a problem, it allows users to zero in on recurring errors and correct them on a case-by-case basis. If they know they tend to make a particular mistake when they’re in a hurry, they can use this trick to catch and fix the problem without laboriously rereading the entire document or running a full-blown grammar check.

We’ll demonstrate this technique by searching for the use of “it’s” where it should be “its,” but you might encourage your students to come up with their own lists of the errors they commonly make.

  1. Choose Replace from the Edit menu.
  2. In the Find What text box, type it’s.
  3. In the Replace With text box, type its.
  4. Click Find Next. Word will jump to the first occurrence of “it’s”, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B
We clicked Find Next to jump to the first instance of the term ”it’s” in this document.

  1. If the word is used incorrectly (as in Figure B), simply click Replace to insert the possessive version (its) and jump to the next occurrence. If the word is used correctly, click Find Next to leave it as is and jump to the next “it’s.”
  2. Repeat the process to work your way through the document, finding and fixing the misused terms in the text.

If you’ve got your own repertoire of timesaving Replace command techniques, please share them with the rest of the Training community by posting a comment below.