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Word: Wildcard find and replace for a space after a special character

June 4, 2019

Wildcard find and replace in Word is brilliant, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

I had set up a find and replace routine to find any of >, <, ≥, and ≤ followed by a space then a number (e.g. > 25). I wanted to remove the space from each I found (e.g. >25). The syntax I used for the find was ([><≥≤])( )([0-9]) (Note: there’s a space inside the second set of parentheses). And the replace I had was \1\3. Looks fine, right? But it didn’t work! Instead, I got some strange results with various numbers preceded by a space replaced with ‘\1\3’. The ≥≤ part worked fine, but not the >< part.

And then I remembered that certain characters have special meaning in Word’s wildcard find and replace—two of which were < for the beginning of a word, and > for the end of a word. No wonder I was getting weird results.

As with any other special characters (e.g. ?, *, [, ], etc.) you have ‘escape’ them for Word to treat them as a normal character, not a special character. The escape character is \ and when I added that in front of each of the special characters, the wildcard find and replace worked as it should.

Here’s what did work:

  • Find: ([\>\<≥≤])( )([0-9])
  • Replace: \1\3 

 

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