Word’s Hidden Features

A look at the hidden features of Word's Find and Replace function.

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When you’re finally ready to go back through your writing and do your edits, you can find that you’re consistently making the same mistake. If you’re not aware of Word’s Find and Replace, then you should be. But, you can search for every instance of one thing and it replace it with another. Let’s say you have a really bad habit of spelling one word incorrectly. You can get to the end of the book, search for every instance of it being spelled incorrectly and replace it with the correct version.

But, did you know that you can do more than that? A friend of mine asked me to look over some of her writing, it needed some technical formatting issues so I fixed those to show her how it should be formatted. One consistent thing that she did was, at the end of a line, press space quite a few times and then press the enter key more than once. That sounds like a pain to go through and fix for an entire novel, it’s a pain to go through it for a 2000 word chapter – which I did. It took me all of thirty seconds because of special characters.

Special characters are invisible pieces of text in your Word document that tell the document what to do. So, every time I press the enter key, Word puts an invisible piece of text there that tells the computer to go to a new line. They appear if you search for them, however, and, more importantly, they work in the replace function. This is true either way that you want to replace – you want to remove or add. Let’s say that you’ve been using tab to indent your paragraphs and you want to replace all of those with indents. On a, 80,000 word novel this is days of work. But, tab is one of the keys you can search for. You can set the indentation of the first lines of the text, then find and replace. You’d search for:

^p^t

What this is doing is looking for every new line followed by a tab. You would then replace it with this:

^p

This is keeping the new line but, as it’s technically being removed and put back it will put it in with all of your indents. Days of work cut down to thirty seconds. This works for double spaces, hit the space bar twice in the search, press space once in the replace bar. I’m not going to list all of the special characters as there an awful lot of them. They’re very easy to look for online. Search for a full list or ask Google what you’d like (enter, space, tab etc) and ‘special character word’ and it’ll come up. Word – and other word processors, I use word so can’t really speak of the others well – is a very powerful word processor and has a lot of unknown features that can make your life a lot easier, if you know how to use them.

Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.

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