How to Find and Replace Characters Using Wildcards in Microsoft Word

17 December 2022

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Wildcards, also known as Wild Characters, are symbols that represent one or more letters and are used to expand a word search beyond the word itself.

You can use Wildcards to find terms that begin and end with a specific letter or all words that begin with a specific string of letters. Wildcards can also be used to search for various terms and help you in any search.

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The key to using search is to identify the specific text string you want to find. To express a character or sequence of characters in that string, wildcards are combined with conventional text and formatting options.

Different combinations of characters can be represented by any number of combinations, often there is more than one way to identify a specific text string in a document. How you choose to represent that set of letters is a matter of personal taste, and the context of the content within the document will determine the most appropriate combination to use on any given occasion.

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Wildcards are similar to blank tiles in Scrabble or Jokers in some card that may be suitable for any card. You’ve probably heard of the “*” and “?” wildcards of file matching.  In the File + Open dialog, type “*.doc” to view all files with the extension “.doc,” or “bardim?n.doc” to display all files “bardimin.doc,” “bardiman.doc” and so on.

How to Use Wildcards in Find and Replace Microsoft Word

  1. Open your document with .
  2. Display the “Find and Replace” dialog box by using the keyboard shortcut ( + H). You can also open it through the “Home >> Editing >> Replace” tab.
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Find and Replace Word
  1. Then click the “More >>” button to expand.
Find and Replace wildcard
  1. Under “Search Options”, check the “Use wildcards” option.
  2. Next, you can use the characters in the “Find what:” field to start the search as shown above.

Wildcard Characters in Find and Replace Microsoft Word

?Represents any single character, including spaces and punctuation marks. Ab?de, for example, matches abade, abbde, abXde, and so on. (This is a Word-specific regex, not a regular regex. The standard regex uses a period (.) character to match a single character other than a newline).
*Represents many characters, matching any character sequence, including spaces and special characters. For example, a*t matches art, aXXt, a@^@t, a t, etc. (This is not the standard regex, which uses .*)
@@ is used to find the reappearance of the previous character (if any). For example, lo@t will find lots or loot, ful@ will find ful or full, etc.
[ ]Square brackets are always used in pairs and are used to identify specific characters or ranges of characters.  Match one (single) of the characters enclosed in your square brackets.   [abc] will find the letters a,b, and c. [F] will find the uppercase “F”; [A-Z] will find any uppercase letters; [0-9] will find a single number; [13579] will find odd numbers; [0-9A-Za-z] will find any number or letter.   Characters can be any character or character set, including spaces. The characters are processed in the lowest – order first. If you’re not sure which character is inferior to the others, check with ” Insert > Symbol”.
Anchor Positions that match the beginning or end of the word limit.  You can use parentheses to mark the beginning and end of a word, respectively.   s*t will find “secret” and “serpent”, but not  “sailing boats” and  “sign over documents”. Whereas again, given the use of “*”, be careful that it will find blocks of text from a word starting with an “s” to the end of the next word in a document ending with a  “t”, e.g.  A “sailing boat” that may not be what you think.   The parentheses can be used in pairs as above or individually as needed, eg.  ful@> will find “full” and the corresponding part of  “wilful” but not  “wilfully”


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