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Search and Replace – a useful editing tool

Written By: Eddie Snipes - Oct• 04•11

There are times when a large document, such as a manuscript, needs a massive search and replace. For example, if you’re editing a manuscript and the author has used two spaces after a period instead of the industry standard of one, how do you fix the issue? Or if you need to remove something with a mass edit, and don’t want to go line by line through a 300 page document, how do you resolve this? Fear not, modern word processors have an easy solution. Or as I often say, “Anything is easy if you know how to do it.” After this document, you will know how to do it.

Let’s start with the dreaded two-space correction. Simply do a search and replace. In this example, I’ll be using Word 2010, but the same tool works for any version of Word or Open Office.

Click on the Home Tab and look to the far right. Under the editing group, you’ll see ‘Replace’.

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In the pop up window, in the ‘Find what’ box, press the spacebar twice.

Click in the ‘Replace with’ box and press the spacebar once.

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After verifying this, press ‘Replace All’.

Use caution when using the replace all button. In this situation it’s a safe replace, but there are times when you may get unexpected results. For example, if you decide to replace a lowercase word with an uppercase, it could be problematic. Changing ‘he’ to ‘He’ will change any word with those two letters together. For example, he, helium, and head would all be changed to uppercase with a replace all command. In cases like this, instead of using replace all, click on ‘Find Next’ and make sure the highlighted word is what you want to change, then click replace, and find next again.

When done correctly, find and replace can make short work of changes that affect the entire document.

There are other times you may want to use a global find and replace. Most manuscripts cannot be submitted with tabs. Instead they need to be indented with the ruler at the top of the document window. If you’ve used the tab to indent your paragraphs and now want to change to the standard, highlight the entire document (or sections you want to change) and set your margins by moving the top arrow to either .5 or .3 inches. I prefer .3.

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After the margin is set, you’ll need to remove all tabs. To do this, go back to your ‘Replace’ window, put ^t in the find field and leave the replace field blank.

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The carat symbol ‘^’ is typed by pressing SHIFT and the number 6.

Another great use for formatting manuscripts is removing all section or page breaks. Breaks are needed when formatting manuscripts for print, but most ebook publishers require these to be removed. Follow the exact same process as above, but use ^m to find page breaks or ^b to find section breaks.

Here are some other useful codes for searching for format codes. Note that some can’t be used in the replace field, but all will work with the find field.

Code

Notes

^-

Optional hyphen

^~

Non breaking hyphen

^^

Caret character

^#

Any digit

^$

Any letter

^&

Contents of ‘Find What’ box (Replace box only)

^+

Em dash  (not valid in the Replace box)

^=

En dash  (not valid in the Replace box)

^u8195

Em Space Unicode character value search (not valid in the Replace box)

^u8194

En Space Unicode character value search (not valid in the Replace box)

^a

Comment (not valid in the replace box)

^b

Section break (not valid in the replace box)

^c

Replace with Clipboard contents (Replace box only)

^d

Field

^e

Endnote Mark (not valid in the Replace box)

^f

Footnote Mark (not valid in the Replace box)

^g

Graphic (In Line Graphics Only).

^l

New line –

clip_image005

^m

Manual Page Break

^n

Column break

^t

Tab –

clip_image006

^p

Paragraph Mark –

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^s

Non-breaking space

^w

White space (space, non-breaking space, tab; not valid in the Replace box)

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2 Comments

  1. To replace the word “he” and make it “He” throughout, simply click on the “more” button at the bottom and make sure “whole words only” is selected. Then it won’t change words like helium and head too.

    One time, when I was working with an old document that I’d started before it became common to only use one space after a period, I accidentally deleted ALL spaces from the manuscript! Yikes! LOL – I was never more happy to use “control Z” in all my life. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much—I’m printing ALL this—-where were you last week? 😀

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