MET workshops

Using wildcards in Microsoft Word find-and-replace routines: in search of speed and consistency

Do you ever find yourself making the same type of change over and over again in a Word document? If so, this may be a suitable candidate for a wildcard find-and-replace procedure. Examples include converting all reference numbers in square brackets to superscript (or vice versa) in one pass, highlighting all dates in a document, and inserting spaces or punctuation in author’s names (Smith, A. B. to Smith AB, or vice versa).
Find and replace using wildcards (regular expressions) is one of Word’s most powerful features and can often greatly speed up on-screen editing procedures. Unfortunately, the necessary information is hidden deep in Word’s Help system and not very well explained, so users often can’t locate it, or find it impenetrable. The workshop introduces a range of simple wildcard find and replace procedures that will help to impose consistency on a document as time-efficiently as possible, whether we’re editing an author’s manuscript or polishing up a translation.
Developer and facilitator: Kathleen Lyle
Purpose: To provide a practical introduction to the use of wildcards for detailed editing.
Description: The workshop seeks to demystify wildcard searches, using the concept of ‘pattern matching’. Working through a series of sample procedures, starting with the simple example of replacing a hyphen by an en dash in number ranges, we will move on to more complex problems, such as the punctuation of names and initials in a reference list. Other useful techniques, such as including formatting information in recorded macros and the use of highlighting to indicate changes, will also be explored.
Structure: The workshop consists of series of exercises carried out on a sample file (a reference list), starting with the basic principles of wildcards and gradually introducing a range of techniques. The approach is kept as general as possible, allowing workshop participants to realize for themselves how this approach can be most useful in their own work. Files will be provided electronically (email/memory stick) and participants are expected to work on their own laptop.
Who should attend? Anyone whose work involves detailed editing in Microsoft Word, e.g. following a client’s or publisher’s style sheet. Some previous experience of editing in Microsoft Word is required. It does not matter what version of Word participants normally use, as the details of wildcard procedures have not changed much over the years; Mac users are catered for.
Outcome skills: Participants will have learnt several techniques that will enable them to edit text more quickly and more accurately by recognizing patterns that can be searched for in Word. Participants will also know how to save searches as macros for repeated use, saving precious time for making more important editorial decisions. The workshop handouts include guidance on more complex wildcard procedures that participants may wish to develop for their own use.
Preworkshop information: Reflect on the find-and-replace examples mentioned in the description above and try to think of examples you have come across in your own work. Or better yet, make a list as you work in the weeks before you come to the workshop.
A Word file will be sent to participants in advance. Please download it to the laptop you will use for the workshop, without making any changes to it.

About the facilitator: Kathleen Lyle is a UK-based copy-editor who works on STM books for several major publishers and other clients. She has been using Microsoft Word since the days of DOS, and in more than 20 years of on-screen editing she has learned the hard way about some of Word’s useful but lesser-known features. She has led workshops on various aspects of Word at many conferences of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).


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