Monday, November 2, 2009

Find & Replace warning

A while ago I decided to change a real name to a fake name in a mostly true book, to avoid embarrassing someone who might not want to be written about.

I used Microsoft Word's Find and Replace feature, which quickly made about a dozen substitutions in a chapter.

But when I read through the chapter I was surprised to find a few instances of the old name, which had escaped the Find function.

It's important to do a manual verification, because Word might not notice hyphenated words, or words with apostrophes or in their plural form, as targets for replacement.



  1. The find and replace feature is buggy. I also used it in my manuscript to replace "straight quotes" with curly quotes, and it missed at least three of them.

    It also looks for identical replacements, so if you have the word "Ford" in one place, and "Ford's" in amother, it won't find the plural or possesive.

    I thin Word 2007 does a better job with this than 2003.

  2. After formatting hundreds of manuscripts for publication, the best way I've found to deal with this problem is a combination of automation and manual work.

    In other words, first run the search and replace (S/R) function (and don't forget to save your file!). Then run a search on just the root of the word you just did the S/R on. For instance, if you searched for "Fredrick" and replaced it with "Smith" go back and do a search (no replace) on "Fred" alone. This will catch most if not all of the forms that escaped the original operation.

    After you're done, there's really no replacement for a proper proofreading, but doing this two-step S/R will solve almost all these "misses."