Archive for July, 2018


Word: Add a character to all items in a long list, and style it in a colour

July 27, 2018

Here was a tricky one posed by my husband first thing this morning. He had a very long column in a table (some 2750+) rows, in which he had some sort of code, like a product identifier. Fortunately, the codes were all the same — they were all K-xxxx, where ‘xxxx’ was a 4-digit number (e.g. K-1234, K-5432, etc.).

He wanted to add a zero immediately after the hyphen. Easy enough. But he wanted this zero character to be blue! Hmmm… (and no, I have no idea why! Update: He had a list of catalogue numbers, but when the company used up all the 4-digit numbers, they changed to 5-digit numbers. To sort them correctly by catalogue number in Word, he needed to add a leading 0 to the 4-digit ones, but he wanted to show that the 0 wasn’t part of the original number, thus the colour.)

After a few minutes of testing I achieved what he wanted. I had to do three find and replace passes, with one of them a wildcard find/replace — the first pass added the 0, the second changed the colour of the hyphen and its trailling zero to blue, and the third changed the colour of the hyphen back to black, leaving just the 0 after the hyphen in blue text.

NOTE: If you’re doing something like this on your own document, either work on a COPY until you’ve refined the procedure and know you won’t inadvertently replace something you shouldn’t have, OR at the ‘Replace All’ steps below, click ‘Replace’ instead, followed by ‘Find Next’. You will have many more clicks to do, but it’s a safer option.

Here’s what I did:

First pass – add a zero after the hyphen:

  1. Open the Find/Replace window (Ctrl+H).
  2. In the Find What field, type K-
  3. In the Replace With field, type K-0
  4. Select the list (or column in a table) you want to apply this change to
  5. Click Replace All. This adds a zero after the K-, so you end up with codes like K-01234, K-05432, etc.
  6. Leave the Find and Replace window open.

Second pass – make the hyphen and the zero another colour:

  1. For the second pass, click outside the selection to position the cursor away from it (I had to do this because as soon as I entered the wildcard string for the colour, ALL the selected text changed to blue, without me even clicking Replace All — very strange).
  2. In the Find/Replace window, click More.
  3. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  4. In the Find What field, type (-)(0) (there are NO spaces in this string).
  5. In the Replace With field, type \1\2 (there are NO spaces in this string).
  6. With your cursor still in the Replace With field, click Format.
  7. Select Font.
  8. Choose a colour from the Font color drop down.
  9. Click OK.
  10. Check the Replace With field — it should have Font color: <name of colour> below the field. The only thing below the Find What field should be Use wildcards. If you have something different, repeat these steps, and make sure you follow Step 6 exactly.
  11. Select the list (or column) again.
  12. Click Replace All. This changes the hyphen and trailling zero to the colour you selected.
  13. Leave the Find and Replace window open.

Third pass – remove the colour from the hyphen:

  1. For the third and final find and replace pass, click outside the selection to position the cursor away from it. Don’t forget to do this!
  2. Clear the Use wildcards checkbox.
  3. In the Find What field, delete the existing characters, then type a hyphen.
  4. In the Replace With field, delete the existing characters, then type a hyphen.
  5. With your cursor still in the Replace With field, click Format, select Font, then in the Font Color drop-down box, select Automatic (or another font colour).
  6. Select the list (or column) again.
  7. Click Replace All. This changes the hyphen colour to the colour you selected in Step 5.



How a copyeditor can help your business

July 24, 2018

I found this excellent image on Northern Editorial’s website (an editing company based in the UK)—it sums up all the sorts of things I do, with the aim of making you (and your communications) look better.

The text on this image is:

Copy Editors Help Your Business because…

  • They catch: bias, blindspots, politically incorrect language, potential libel, offensive language, copyright problems.
  • They see: what you wrote, not what you thought you wrote; what the reads see, not what you see; holes in our argument; padding in your prose.
  • They find: repetition, overused phrases, ambiguity.
  • They check: readability, facts, links.
  • They fix errors in: grammar, punctuation, format, style, voice.
  • They spot: missing information, mislabelled information, wrong information.
  • They uphold: quality, credibility, standards.
  • They are invisible; they are valuable; they get your message out there and make you look better.

Thanks for allowing us to share this, Northern Editorial!

Update September 2018: Intelligent Editing, the creators of PerfectIt, one of my go-to editing tools, blogged about why you should hire an editor:


Word: Wildcard find and replace for numbers inside parentheses

July 22, 2018

In a comment on another post (, AVi asked if there was a way to find percentage numbers (e.g. 56%) that were inside parentheses, and replace them with the same number but without the parentheses — i.e. (56%) becomes 56%.

There is, but it’s a bit trickier than usual because parentheses are also special characters in Word’s find/replace lexicon—these have to be ‘escaped’ for Word to treat them as normal characters and not as special characters.

In figuring this out, I also took into account that there might be single numerals (e.g 4%), triple numerals (e.g. 125%), and numerals with one or more decimals (e.g. 75.997%).

Here’s what I came up with that worked for all those scenarios:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace dialog.
  2. Click More, then select the Use wildcards check box.
  3. In Find What, type: ([\(])([0-9]*%)([\)])
  4. In Replace With, type: \2
  5. Click Find Next, then click Replace once the first is found. Once you’re happy that it works, repeat until you’ve replaced them all.

What the find and replace ‘codes’ mean:

The three elements (each is enclosed in parentheses) of the Find are:

  1. ([\(]) — You need to find a specific character (the opening parenthesis), so you need to enclose it in parentheses. However, because parentheses are special wildcard characters in their own right, you need to tell Word to treat them as normal text characters and not as special characters, so you put in a backslash ‘\‘ (also known as an ‘escape’ character) before the (, AND surround this string in square brackets [ ] (otherwise, it won’t work).
  2. ([0-9]*%) — The [0-9] represents any number from 0 to 9; the * represents any more characters immediately after that number (more numbers, or a decimal point), thus not limiting the find to only single digit numbers; and the % symbol says this string of numbers found must finish with that symbol. This finds numbers like 2%, 25%, 283%, 25.4%, etc.
  3. ([\)]) — You need to find the closing parenthesis, so you need to enclose it in parentheses. However, because the closing parenthesis is a special wildcard character in its own right, you need to tell Word to treat it as a normal text character and not as a special character, so you ‘escape’ it with a backslash ‘\‘ before the ), then surround that string in square brackets.

There are no spaces preceding or trailing any of these elements, or in between them, so if you copy the code from this blog post, get rid of any preceding spaces otherwise it won’t work .

For the Replace: \2 — Tells Word to replace the second element of the Find with what was in the Find (i.e. a number followed by a % symbol) .

AVi: I hope this solves your problem. Donations to keeping this blog ad-free gratefully accepted (see the link at the top right of the page).



Word: Finding duplicate words

July 11, 2018

I had a long list (57 pages!) of Latin species names, sorted into alphabetical order. I’d separated the words so that there was only one word on each line. My next task was to go through and remove all the duplicates (i.e. a word immediately followed by the same word) so I could add the final list to my custom dictionary for species in Microsoft Word. I started doing it manually—it’s easy enough to find duplicates when the words are familiar, but for Latin words, my brain just wasn’t coping well and I was missing subtle differences like a single or double ‘i’ at the end of a word. There had to be a better way…

And there is! Good old Dr Google came to the rescue, and with a bit of fiddling to suit my circumstances (one word on each line), I got a wildcard find and replace routine to find the duplicates.

NOTE: DO NOT do a ‘replace all’ with this, in case Word makes unwanted changes. In my case it didn’t treat the second word as a whole word for matching purposes (e.g. it thought banksi, banksia, and banksii were duplicates). Even though I had to skip some of these, it was still worth it to automate much of the process. Another caveat—if you have several lines of the same word, each pair will be found, but you’ll have to run the find several times to get them all. Much better to move your cursor into Word and delete the excess multiple duplicates when you find them. You may still have to do a couple of passes over the document, but the heavy lifting will have been done for you.

Here’s what I did to get it work:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. Click More, then select the Use Wildcards checkbox.
  3. In the Find What field, type (<*>)^013\1 (there are no spaces in this string).
  4. In the Replace With field, type \1 (there are no spaces in this string either).
  5. Click Find Next.
  6. When a pair of matching whole words is found, click Replace. NOTE: If the second word is only a partial match for the first word, click Find Next.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you’re satisfied you’ve found them all.

How this works:

  • (<*>) is the first element (later represented by \1) of the find. The angle brackets specify the start and end of a word, and the ‘word’ is anything (represented by the *). In other words, you’re looking for a whole ‘word’ of any length and made up of any characters (including numbers).
  • ^013 is the paragraph marker at the end of the line. In my situation, each word was on its own line with a paragraph mark at the end of the line. If you don’t have this situation, leave this out and replace it with a space (two repeated words in the same line are separated by a space). NOTE: Normally you can find a paragraph mark in a Find with ^p, but not with a wildcard Find—you have to use ^013.
  • \1 is the first element. In the Find, it means the duplicate of whatever was found by (<*>); in the Replace, it means replace the duplicated word with the first word found.



Word: Find all words with two or more capital letters

July 9, 2018

Someone in one of my online editing groups wanted to find all the acronyms and initialisms in their document—any word comprising two or more capital (‘cap’) letters (e.g. AB, CDEF, GHIJK, etc.). They wanted a command that would find each one so they could check it (possibly against a glossary), then click Find Next to jump to the next one.

Wildcards to the rescue!

Here’s how:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. Click the Find tab (we only want to find these, not replace them with anything else).
  3. Click More to show further options.
  4. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  5. In the Find what field, type: <[A-Z]{2,}>
  6. Click Find next to find the first string of two or more caps.
  7. Keep clicking Find next to jump to the next string of two or more caps.

How this works:

  • The opening and closing arrow brackets (< and >) specify that you want a single whole word, not parts of a word. Without these, you would find each set of caps (e.g. in the string ABCDEF, you would find ABCDEF, then BCDEF, then CDEF, then DEF, then EF, before moving on to the next set of caps).
  • [A-Z] specifies that you want a range (the [ ] part) of caps that fall somewhere in the alphabet (A-Z). If you only wanted capped words that started with, say, H through to M, then you’d change the range to [H-M] and all other capped words starting with other letters would be ignored.
  • {2,} means you want to find capped words with at least two letters in the specified range (i.e. A-Z). If you only wanted to find two- and three-letter capped words, then you’d change this to {2,3}, and all capped word of four or more letters would be ignored. By not specifying a number after the comma, the ‘find’ will find capped words of any length containing at least two letters.