2. Quickly Replacing Text

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Use the Navigation pane to instantly replace words throughout a document.


Lesson Goal

Learn how to replace words in a Word document.

Performing a simple replace

To the right of the search box in the Navigation pane, click the down arrow and select Replace. This opens the Find and Replace window.

In the top text box, we can type the word we wish to remove. In the next box, we’ll type the word we wish to replace the removed word.

If we click the find next button, we’ll move to the first instance of the word we wish to replace. We can click replace to replace just this word or replace all to replace every instance of the word in the document.

Suppose we don’t want to replace some instances. To do this, we’ll click find next to skip a word. If we want to replace it we click replace, if we don’t we click find next to jump to the next word.

Handling cases

A simple replace will not pay any attention to case. If we use replace all to change the word “tall” to “high”, the word “Tall” will be replaced with the word “high”. This can be problematic for titles, headers, and words at the beginning of a sentence.

To handle this, we’ll need to enable the Match Case option. This will mean that Word will pay close attention to the case of the search term. In the above example, “Tall” would not be replaced as it does not match the case of “tall”.

This means we’ll have to do two separate replaces. One with all lower case and one with the first letter in upper case. You may need to do more if you wish to replace words with more uppercase characters.

Replacing distinct words

A simple replace will not look for distinct words. If we use replace all to change the word “tall” to “high”, the word “stalled” would change to “shighed”. We can replace distinct words by putting a space on either end of the the words we’re searching for and replacing.

However, this will not work for words that are followed by a punctuation mark. We can check the box Ignore punctuation characters, to replace all distinct words, but note that this will replace these punctuation marks with a space. As such, it’s better to use replace and find next, rather than replace all to spot this.


In the previous lesson, we learned how to use the navigation pane to quickly move through a document. In this lesson, we'll learn how to replace words in a document. We'll return to the research document from the previous lesson.

Occasionally, a document will require an edit that can be quickly automated. For example, if we need to replace all instances of one word with a different word.

This would be useful if a company changed the name of a product and needed to adjust a very long document that references that product multiple times.

In this document, we'll need to do something similar. The author has indicated to us that they've made a small mistake.

They mentioned natural foods when they meant to write about functional foods.

We'll use replace tools to quickly make this edit. First, we'll open the navigation pane with Control + F.

We'll then click the small arrow in the search box and select replace.

Next, we'll enter natural as the word we want to replace in the find what box.

In the box below, we'll enter our substitute word, functional.

We'll then click replace all to make the edit.

It's important to note that there can be unexpected consequences when using the replace tool. For example, if we do a search for the word functional, we can see the word, functionally. A quick glance at this sentence reveals that in this case, the word naturally makes more sense than the word functionally. In other words, we unintentionally change this word from naturally to functionally.

We'll undo the replace action and start again by opening the replace window.

We'll replace natural in the find what box and click the more button to reveal some options.

Here, we'll check find whole words only. We'll click replace all and view the results.

This only replaced instances of the full word, natural not words that contain natural. We'll search for the word functional again and see that it only appears as a distinct word. Note that we've replaced a word in one of our headings. Let's navigate to page two and ensure that the table of contents is updated to reflect the new heading name.

This lesson is now complete.

In the next lesson, we'll use Word's proofing tools to search for grammar and spelling mistakes in the document.

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