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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

How to Find and Replace Special Characters in Microsoft Word

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In addition to searching and replacing text, Word lets you search for special characters—tabs, indents, paragraph marks, and so on—and then replace them with other special characters. This can be handy for quick and easy changes which would typically take you a bit more time to do manually.

When Is Searching and Replacing Special Characters Useful?

To understand when searching and replacing special characters may be useful, let’s look at some examples.

  • Let’s say there is a lengthy legal document that you need to edit. You have been asked to replace the word “section” with the section symbol. The section symbol is a pair of overlapping “S” characters and is often used in legal documents to reference a numbered section in a document. Your document is over 50 pages, and there are numerous references to various sections throughout. You can easily replace the word “section” with the section symbol using search and replace.
  • You have just finished writing a draft of your first novel, and it includes a variety of hyphenated words. You need to keep the hyphenated words together by replacing the regular hyphen with a non-breaking hyphen. You start replacing the symbol manually but stop yourself after a few attempts. You know there has to be an easier way. There is! Just use Find and Replace to do the job for you.
  • A colleague has resigned, and you have been assigned the task of editing a report that the colleague worked on before he left. The report is well written, but there is inconsistent paragraph spacing throughout. After clicking Show/Hide, you discover that in some cases, there are two paragraph marks instead of one. One way to correct the paragraph spacing would be to press the Delete key every time you see an extra paragraph mark. But there’s a faster way–just search for every occurrence of two paragraph marks and replace it with one paragraph mark.

There are too many special characters to detail all of them, but let’s take a look at a few general examples of how searching and replacing those characters works.

Example One: Replace Text with a Special Character

Let’s say your document looks something like this:

Word document where the word "section" appears

Note: If you don’t see the special characters in your document, you can turn them on by clicking the Show/Hide button on the Ribbon. Its icon looks like the paragraph symbol.

You need to replace every occurrence of the word “Section” with a section symbol. Switch over to the “Home” tab on Word’s Ribbon and then click “Replace.” Alternatively, you can press Ctrl+H.

click the replace button

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