Word: Find words with numerals and delete the numeral

July 29, 2015

Lesley, a transcriptionist from the UK, emailed me with her problem:

…although [I’m] a fast typist I do make mistakes. One of my common ones is that when I’m typing quickly I can hit a number key so a word can come out like tr4st for example or what4ever.

She wanted to know if there was a wildcard find/replace for [a-z][0-9] that would solve her problem.

Well, yes there is, but Word already offers some standard solutions to identify and fix these situations (Method 1), which may mean you don’t need the find/replace solution (Method 2).

Method 1: Use Word’s existing settings and functions

There’s a setting to ignore numbers in words when doing a spell check. If you turn that off and turn on check spelling as you type, AND run a final spell check, that may solve the problem as the spell check function will find them.

  1. Go to File > Options > Proofing.
  2. Make sure the Ignore words that contain numbers checkbox is clear (unselected).
  3. For added checks, turn on Check spelling as you type (also in that Proofing area).
  4. Don’t forget to run the spellchecker when you’ve finished your document.

Method 2: Use a wildcard find and replace

If you’d rather use a find/replace routine to find words with a single numeral surrounded by lower case letters (as in Lesley’s examples above), then follow the steps below.

NOTE: This find string will NOT find occurrences of upper case letters before or after the numeral, more than two numerals, or a numeral at the start or end of a word (e.g. 4trust, whatever4).

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace dialog box on the Replace tab.
  2. Click More.
  3. Select the Use wildcards check box.
  4. In the Find What field, type: ([a-z])([0-9])([a-z]) (This string looks for a lower case letter immediately followed by a single number, immediately followed by a lower case letter. There are NO spaces in this string.)
  5. In the Replace With field, type \1\3 (You’re replacing the first and third found elements [i.e. the lower case letters] with themselves, and not replacing the number, thus deleting it. NOTE: There are NO spaces in this replace string.)
  6. Click Find Next to find the first instance of a number inside a word.
  7. Assuming the number is found correctly and it’s what you want to delete, click Replace.
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for all instances.

Warning: You could do Replace All but you have to be ABSOLUTELY certain you aren’t replacing something you shouldn’t. Replace All is very powerful and makes global changes… You have been warned!

This is what your Find and Replace dialog box should look like:


One comment

  1. Great! I’ve had no idea that there could be such strings! What are the courses to learn such tricks?

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