Formatting can be a tiresome task if you stop to apply every format manually. Sometimes that’s the only option–but often, you can use Word’s Replace option to apply formats to multiple strings all at once. In this article, I’ll show you how to use Replace to apply, change, and delete formatting.

I’m using Word 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system but all these options are available in older versions. Unfortunately, these options aren’t supported in Word’s browser version. There’s no downloadable demonstration file; you won’t need one.

Before we start

All of the examples have similar step-by-step instructions, so I won’t repeat the following information each time:

  • All the examples use the Find And Replace dialog, which you can launch by clicking Replace in the Editing group on the Home tab or by pressing [Ctrl]+H.
  • You might need to click the More button in the bottom-left corner to access the Format options. (The button displays Less when the options are visible.)
  • You can choose between Replace All and Find Next–that’s up to you.
  • These options are sticky, so it’s a good practice to remove all formats from controls before each replace task. To do so, click inside the control and click the No Formatting option in the Replace section, shown in Figure A.
  • You can include the Match Case and Find Whole Words Only options to narrow a search or replace setting. (We don’t use them in this article, but you should know that you can.)

Figure A

We’ll work with these options.

The first example is the simplest and includes step-by-step instructions. Subsequent examples include only the settings–the manual process is the same.

SEE: How to add Office macros to the QAT toolbar for quick access

1: Add a format

It’s not unusual to add formatting after the fact. The proposal has been written, edited, and re-edited but someone wants the company name in bold. You could use Find and apply bold formatting manually, but it’s more efficient to use Replace.

To do so, launch the Find And Replace dialog by clicking Replace in the Editing group on the Home tab or by pressing [Ctrl]+H. Enter the text you’re formatting in the Find What control. Then, click inside the Replace With control but don’t enter any text. In the bottom-left corner, click the Format dropdown and choose Font (Figure B).

Figure B

Choose Font from the Format dropdown.

In the resulting dialog, select the appropriate format(s). In this case, select Bold in the Font Style list (Figure C) and click OK. As you can see in Figure D, Word displays Font: Bold below the Replace With control. At this point, you’re ready to click Replace All or Find Next and Replace as suits your needs.

Figure C

Choose the format you want to apply.

Figure D

Verify the format before applying it.

If this doesn’t work the way you expect it to, check for existing formats under each control (Figure D). Word remembers these settings from one session to the next. If you need to remove a format, click inside the control and then click No Formatting so you can start with a clean slate.

SEE: How to use Word templates effectively

2: Add to or change an existing format

In the previous technique, you searched for text. You can also search for formats and change them by specifying formats in both the Find What and the Replace With controls. The example shown in Figure E will find all bold text and add italics. (You can also search for multiple formats, not just one.)

Figure E

Add italics to the bold text.

This task adds italics, leaving the bold formatting–which might or might not be what you want. If you want to remove the bold, run a second replace. This time, choose Italics in the Find What control and Not Bold in the Replace With control, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Remove the bold formatting.

3: Add to text and change format

Now let’s complicate things a bit. Let’s suppose you want to add text and formatting. Figure G shows the settings required to add , Inc. to the company name and apply italics. You can do both at the same time.

Figure G

The ^& code tells Word to replace the found string with itself.

4: Apply a style

In the last technique, we added a format. You can use the same strategy to apply a style, as shown in Figure H. In this example, we apply the Strong style to all instances of the company name. Instead of choosing Font from the Format dropdown, choose Style. Then, choose Strong from the resulting dialog, as shown in Figure I.

Figure H

Most of us apply styles as we go, but that’s not always the case.

Figure I

Choose a style.

5: Change a style

Replace comes in handy when applying a new style or changing an existing one. In Figure J, we’re changing all of the Strong-styled text to Quote. Keep in mind that this example will change all instances. If you mean to change only those instances of Harkins and Sons, Inc., include that text in the Find What control.

Figure J

Change an existing style.

6: Delete formatted text

Until now, we’ve been manipulating formats, but we can also use this feature to delete formatted text. Figure K shows a specified format in the Find What control. Simply leave the Replace With control blank. (Be sure to clear any existing formats in this control or you’ll simply replace one set of formats with another.)

Figure K

Delete text.

7: Add highlighting

If you need to highlight every instance of the same word, or every instance of specifically formatted text, use Replace. Figure L shows the settings for highlighting a specific string, but you could specify a format or both just as easily. The Highlight option is on the Format dropdown. Word will apply the current selection in the Text Highlight Color option. If the current selection is No Color, this task appears to do nothing.

Figure L

Add highlighting.

Send me your question about Office

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