The magazine of the Melbourne PC User Group

Using Find and Replace As A Proofing Assistant
Brett Lockwood

Brett Lockwood shows one of the ways the Word Find and Replace function can be used to do more than just locate or replace text

There are many ways to exploit Word's Find and Replace function. One of the more interesting procedures is the checking of document formatting, that is, searching not for specific text characters, but for text attributes, such as the roman ("regular" in Word), italic or bold italic font formats, or attribute groupings such as Arial 11 point bold italic text.

Searching for and checking the accuracy of font formatting is something a document editor does as part of final document work. More often than not that involves using just the "find" facility, not the "replace" facility. What one is really doing is performing part of the proofreading process before the hard copy proofreading task is commenced. It is well worth the time.

Inadvertently italicised text is probably the most common font formatting error in word processing, so let's go through the steps of specifying the search criterion of italic formatting for a document and see what turns up:

  1. Press Ctrl+Home to move the cursor to the top of the document (Find and Replace searching begins from the current cursor location). If this key sequence brings up the Find and Replace dialog box, the "Navigation keys for WordPerfect users" option is turned on in the Options dialog box. You can use Tools|Options and click the General tab to access and turn off this option.

  2. Use Edit|Find to open the Find and Replace box. The cursor is automatically placed in the Find what: text box.

  3. Click More to expand the Find and Replace box.

  4. Click the Format button and choose Font to open the Find Font box.

  5. Click on Italic under Font style: and click OK to close the Find Font box.

The label "Format: Font: Italic" now appears beneath the Find and Replace box Find what: text box (the text box itself remains empty; no specific text is being searched for). This is shown in Figure 1.

From here, you just click the Find Next button to locate and highlight instances of italic text.

Figure 1. A font format (but no search text) specified
as the Find what: criterion.

Figure 2. An italic font formatting error with parentheses.

In Figure 2, the text (susuki has been highlighted in a further search. You can easily tell that an error exists. The opening parenthesis is highlighted, the closing parenthesis is not (this can only be an error).

The fact that the Find function highlights text (the technical term is "reverse video"; white text on a black background instead of black text on a white background) is a real advantage, because formatting errors are visually emphasised.

Figure 3 shows the results of another search for italic text in the document. This time there is no error within the highlighted text, but the fact that the entire text block is not highlighted seems strange. If an entire paragraph or sentence is italicised, it should all be selected. So the suspicion is that the comma following the word Science is not italic. This is the case. The comma is set as roman (confirmed by clicking into the document text-clicking outside the Find and Replace box-and manually selecting the comma with the mouse and looking at the Italic button on the Formatting toolbar). Incorrectly formatted punctuation within blocks of italicised text is another common formatting error in word processing.

Figure 3. The “suspicious break” in italic font formatting.

Figure 4. Incorrectly formatted “trailing” punctuation.

Figure 4 shows another typical formatting error. This is where a comma immediately following italicised text has been mistakenly italicised. The book title Point and Counterpoint etc. should be italicised, but the "trailing" comma should not. A mistake easily made when selecting text with the mouse. This is the type of error that has entered into text publishing via word processing.

This type of proofing is fast and easy to perform, and is a useful adjunct to spelling and grammar checks, which do not pick up these types of errors. The last example, the mistakenly italicised comma (or semi-colon), is one of the most difficult types of errors to identify in hard copy proofreading, yet is easily seen in this type of text search. If you pick up three or four errors in a document, it is worthwhile. In fact it is worth it even when no errors are picked up, as you have still successfully proofed a portion of the document.

You use the Find and Replace box No Formatting button to remove formats specified with the Find what: and Replace with: features. This button is greyed out (unavailable for use) unless text formats are operative. Even experienced users can get confused when they search for a format, close the Find and Replace box, then open it and search for specific text they know exists, only to get a null search result. The null result is caused by the maintenance of the previously defined format (for example, bold), when the text being searched for does not meet that criterion (because, for example, it is set as italic). Format/s specified for a previous search are not removed unless you click the No Formatting button or close Word.

Keep in mind that you can increase the text magnification (using the Zoom button on the Standard toolbar) so that your search results are more legible (easier on the eyes). Also, there is a handy shortcut to choosing formatting settings for your Find function in Word 97/98. Once the Find and Replace dialog box is open, instead of going through the steps of opening and closing the Find Font dialog box, you can simply click Formatting toolbar buttons to set Find what: text box attributes. Figure 5 shows this. Bold-italic-centred text has been specified by clicking on the Bold, Italic and Center buttons on this toolbar. If you are checking a range of formats, this saves considerable menu work.

Figure 5. Specifying Find font formats in Word 97
using the Formatting toolbar.

You can't use the Formatting toolbar in Word 2000/2001 and Word 2002 in this way, but you can use keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl+I for italic, for example) in all these Word versions to get the same results. And what's the quick way to learn your keyboard shortcuts for setting Formatting toolbar options? Turn on your "Show shortcut keys in ScreenTips" option via Tools|Customize and clicking the Options tab. In Figure 5 this option is turned on and you can see that the shortcut Ctrl+E is displayed after "Center" in the Formatting toolbar Centre button hypertext ScreenTips box. A great learning feature in Word that is buried in the Customize box and that should have been programmed by Microsoft to be turned on by default upon installation of Word.

Feedback on this article is welcome.

About The Author
Brett Lockwood has been a freelance editor since 1981, and has worked with computers since 1976. He is president of the Society of Editors (Victoria) and teaches on-screen text editing (using MS Word). E-mail

Reprinted from the August 2003 issue of PC Update, the magazine of Melbourne PC User Group, Australia

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