How to Find And Replace in Word (Step-by-Step)

Before Word came out with Find and Replace we didn’t know what we were missing. Now we use it ALL THE TIME.

This handy tool will find all instances of a word, number, or phrase in your document and change it in a single click. It is really beneficial for bulk changes in your document - and most people don’t even know this feature exists.

how to find and replace in word with the find and replace dialog box

By using the advanced settings in the Find and Replace Dialog box you can replace not only words but punctuation, capitalization, and more. 

In this guide you will learn:

  1. How to Find and Replace in Word on your computer (PC & Mac)
  2. How to Find and Replace in Word on the Mobile App
  3. Similar tools to provide consistency in your writing


How to Find and Replace in Word (PC)

Navigate to the Home tab Select the Replace command

To open the Find and Replace dialog box in Word, simply:

  1. Navigate to the Home tab
  2. Select the Replace command

Inside the dialog box, you can use the Find What and Replace With input boxes (explained in detail below). Or, the advanced search options (also explained below).

You also have a lot of additional options that are all explained below.

Find and Replace Dialog box

You can alternatively hit Ctrl + H on your keyboard to open the Find and Replace Dialog box.

Hit Ctrl + H to open the Find and Replace in Word box

In the Find What box, enter the text you would like to change. Then, in the Replace With box enter the replacement text. You can enter up to 255 characters in each box. 

Select Find Next to see where the subsequent Find What text or phrase is located within your document. This will highlight one instance of the Find What text at a time. Word will begin by highlighting the text closest to the placement of your cursor. 

You can continue to click the Find Next button to scroll through every instance of the Find What text in your document. When you have found the appropriate text then select Replace. It will only replace the highlighted word. 

Alternatively, select Replace All if you would like to change every instance of the Find What text to the Replace With text within your document. A box will appear, which will tell you how many times replacements were made.

The downside is, Replace All does not give you the option of skipping any text you don’t want to change and it may replace text that is part of another longer word. 


Find and Replace’s Biggest Downfall

There are many benefits to using the Find and Replace feature in Word. However, the default settings on Find and Replace search for combinations of characters rather than words

For example, if you were to Replace All ‘van’ in your text, than the ‘van’ in ‘Advanced’ would be replaced as well. This is not ideal for most pieces of writing. 

Also, punctuation and capitalisation must be integrated into the search if you are using the default settings. For example, if you search ‘Therefore it was’ than ‘Therefore, it was’ would not appear because of the punctuation between ‘Therefore’ and ‘it’. 

Likewise, if you search for ‘Hello’ than ‘hello’ would not appear because it is not a replica of the aforementioned term. 

The good news is by selecting More >> in the Find and Replace Dialog box, you can change the Find and Replace settings to identify words instead of characters or to include punctuation and capitalisation. 


Advanced Find and Replace Options (PC)

Find and Replace Dialog box with More option

Once you have navigated to the Find and Replace Dialog box or used the shortcut Ctrl + H for it to appear, you have the option to click More >> in the lower left corner of the Dialog box. This will open up more options for replacing text. When you select one of these options, they will do the following.

  • Match Case: Replaces the capitalization, lower case, or uppercase as it appears in the Find What and Replace With box.
  • Find Whole Words Only: Replaces full words. Find and Replace replaces combinations of text rather than words. If you were to replace ‘van’ in your text, it would replace the ‘van’ in Advanced’. However, if you select the Find Whole Words Only button then the ‘van’ in Advanced would NOT be replaced because it is part of a larger word. 
  • Use Wildcards: The wildcards are (?) and (*).
  • By using a combination like t(?)e every instance of words beginning with ‘t’ and ending in ‘e’ with one character in the middle will be replaced. For example tie, the, toe, etc. 
  • By using a combination like t(*)e every instance of words beginning with ‘t’ and ending in ‘e’ with no limit of characters between the letters would be replaced. For example toe, tide, time, titrate, etc.
  • Sounds Like: Replaces words or phrases that sound phonetically similar. For example, carat and carrot.
  • Find All Word Forms: Replaces word families by finding related words. For example, helping, helped, helps, etc. 
  • Highlight All: Works in conjunction with Incremental Find to highlight specific words, phrases, or punctuation. 
  • Incremental Find: Once selected, Incremental Find will highlight the specified text as you type. 
  • Match Prefix: Replaces or finds the prefix of words within your document. For example, if you search for ‘pre’, the following words might appear: precise, prevent, predict, etc. 
  • Match Suffix: Replaces or finds the suffix of words within your document. For example, if you search for ‘ing’, the following words might appear: rowing, running, baking, etc.
  • Ignore Punctuation Characters: Ignores any punctuation when searching within the document. For example, if you select this option then both ‘Therefore it was’ and ‘Therefore, it was’ would appear in the search results regardless of the punctuation between ‘Therefore’ and ‘it’.
  • Ignore white-space characters: Ignores any spaces when searching the document. For example, if you select this option and you search for Outdoor Education both Outdoor Education and OutdoorEducation will appear in the search results.

How to Find and Replace in Word (Mac)

There are two ways to access Find and Replace on Mac. The Navigation Pane gives users easier access to Find and Replace but there are more options in the Advanced Find and Replace Dialog box.

1. How to Find and Replace in Word Using the Navigation Pane (Mac)

To use Find and Replace using the Navigation Pane follow these steps:

select the magnifying glass to find and replace in Word
  1. In the top right corner of your document select the magnifying glass in your search bar.
  2. From the drop-down menu select Replace.
  3. Find and Replace will open in the Navigation Pane.
How to find and replace in word in theNavigation Pane

In the Search Document box enter the text you want to replace. Then, select Find. Every instance of the characters in the Search Document box will appear in Matches below. It will also be highlighted within the body of your document starting with the characters closest to the placement of your cursor. 

You can continue to scroll through your matches until you find the instance you want to replace. When you have found the appropriate match then select Replace

Alternatively, select Replace All if you would like to change every match within your document.

More Settings in the Navigation Pane

The downside to this method is the default settings on Find and Replace search for combinations of exact characters rather than words.

Advanced find and replace in word settings

Select the Settings dropdown beside the Find button for more control over your search results. You can choose from any combination of the following:

  • Whole Words Only: Replaces full words. Find and Replace replaces combinations of text rather than words. If you were to replace ‘van’ in your text, it would replace the ‘van’ in Advanced’ if you do not select the Find Whole Words Only button.
  • Ignore Case: This will ignore whether the word is capitalized, lower case, or uppercase. For example, ‘Hello’ will not appear in the search results for ‘hello’ if this option is not selected.
  • Sounds Like: Finds words or phrases that sound phonetically similar. For example, carat and carrot.
  • All Word Forms: Find all related words. For example, helping, helped, helps, etc.

Finally, clicking Advanced Find and Replace from the dropdown settings will open the Find and Replace Dialog box.

2. How to Find and Replace in Word Using the Advanced Find and Replace Dialog Box (Mac)

To Find and Replace with the Find and Replace Dialog box follow these steps:

Select Edit, hover over Find in the dropdown menu, then select Advanced Find and Replace

  1. Select Edit
  2. Hover over Find in the dropdown menu
  3. Select Advanced Find and Replace and the Find and Replace Dialog box will appear 

Note: Alternatively, use the Find and Replace Dialog box shortcut: Up Arrow + Cmd + H

How to find and replace in word

In the Find and Replace Dialog box navigate to Replace. In the Find What box insert the text you want to replace and in the Replace With box insert the replacement text

Select Find Next to search your document for the text you would like replaced. When you find the characters you would like to replace hit Replace. Alternatively, select Replace All if you would like to change every instance of the Find What text in your document
Find and replace dialog box

For more options select the arrow in the left corner of the Find and Replace Dialog box. The same as in Option #1, you will have the choice to apply the following filters to your search results:

  • Find Whole Word Only
  • Match Case (the opposite of Ignore Case)
  • Sounds Like 
  • Find All Word Forms

All of these were explained above. The only additional filter is Use Wildcards. Wildcards are stipulated by a (?) and (*). 

By using a combination like s(?)t every instance of words beginning with ‘s’ and ending in ‘t’ with one character in the middle would be picked up by search. For example, sit, sat, set, etc. 

By using a combination like s(*)t every instance of words beginning with ‘s’ and ending in ‘t’ with no limit of characters between the letters would be picked up by search. For example seat, stilt, shoot, etc.

Format in the Find and Replace dialog box

Additionally, you can control the Format of your replacement text by selecting one of the following:

  • Font
  • Paragraph
  • Tabs
  • Language
  • Frame 
  • Style
  • Highlight

When one of these Formats are selected, the corresponding Dialog box will appear. Whatever you choose in the given Dialog box will appear to the replacement text.

Special find and replace dialog box

Likewise, in the Special drop-down (beside Formats), you can choose from features like paragraph marks and manual page breaks to further customize your replacement text.


How to Find and Replace on the Mobile Word App

How to Find and Replace in Word on the Mobile App

To Find and Replace in Word on the Mobile App follow these steps:

Select Find and Replace in the mobile app
  1. Select the magnifying glass in the top toolbar to open the Search Bar
  2. Select Settings and the Options screen will appear
  3.  Select Find and Replace
    • Select Match Case to search for text with the same capitalisation, uppercase, and lowercase letters.
    • Select Whole Words to search for words rather than groups of characters within the text.
    • Select Sounds Like to search for phonetically similar words.
  4. Select Done.
Select Replace in the Mobile App

Enter the characters you want to replace in the Search Bar and the replacement text in the Replace box below. Use the arrows to scroll through each search match in the document. The text will be highlighted. When you find the text you would like to replace, click Replace

How to Find and Replace All in Word on the Mobile App

To Replace All on the Mobile App follow these steps:

How to find and replace in the word document mobile app
  1. Select the magnifying glass in the top toolbar to open the Search Bar
  2. Select Settings
  3. Select Find and Replace All
    • Select Match Case to search for text with the same capitalisation, uppercase, and lowercase letters.
    • Select Whole Words to search for words rather than groups of characters within the text.
    • Select Sounds Like to search for phonetically similar words.
  4. Select Done
How to find and replace in the word document mobile app
Enter the text you would like to replace in the Search Bar and the replacement text in the Replace box below then select All. A box will appear telling you how many times the text was changed within your document. 

Tools to Improve Consistency in Your Writing

Find and Replace in Word is largely a tool which improves consistency throughout your document. Used in conjunction with the following tools you can expect a professional, error-free piece of writing.

Spell and Grammar Check in Word

Rather than using Find and Replace to manually check spelling and grammar in Word consider using the Spelling and Grammar Check feature built into Word. There are two ways to access it. 

The first way is through the Tools dropdown. Select Tools, hover over Spelling and Grammar and then click Spelling and Grammar. The Spelling and Grammar Dialog box will appear.

Alternatively, select the Review tab from the Ribbon guide. Select Spelling & Grammar and the Spelling and Grammar Dialog box will appear.

In the Spelling and Grammar Dialog box, Word will cycle through each instance of a word or grammatical instance that it thinks is incorrect. You will have the option to Ignore, Ignore All, or Add a new word or punctuation. 

Grammarly Editor for Word

Grammarly editor is far more capable than the spelling and grammar checker built into Word. It scans your pages for spelling and grammar, yes, but goes beyond to check sentence structure, misused words, and correct language

There are two versions of Grammarly, the chrome extension or the Microsoft Office add-on which can be used in Word or in Outlook for your emails. However, at this time, only PC users can download the Microsoft Office add-on. 

The basic plan is free and is really all you need if you don’t do much writing in your day-to-day life but we would recommend upgrading to premium if you are regularly writing emails or any other kind of content that would benefit from having a second set of eyes on it. Get it here


Conclusion

Consistency in your writing is a mark of professionalism. Find and Replace is a wonderful tool to help you make bulk changes to your document with ease, so you can maintain that professionalism in your writing. Anyone who doesn’t know how to Find and Replace in Word will be wasting lots of time scanning their document. So, aren’t you glad you do?

Another way you make your document look more professional is to insert a table of contents. To learn all about tables of contents in Word, read our guide here.

If you enjoyed this tutorial and want to learn more ways to improve your Microsoft Office skills, visit us here.