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When Replace Doesn't Work

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: When Replace Doesn't Work.

When you try to replace text in your document using Find and Replace, things may not always work as you would expect. If they don't, check these factors:

  • Have you made a selection of text? If so, the replace operation will work only within that selection.
  • Have you cleared the formatting? (Unless the formatting is necessary for what you are trying to do.)
  • Did you spell the Find What and Replace With text correctly?
  • Are the search modifiers (match case and whole word) selected properly?

If these factors are set properly and it still doesn't work properly, then you should exit Word and restart the program. You will then be able to perform the replace anew, with Word in a "fresh" condition.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (26) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: When Replace Doesn't Work.

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Comments for this tip:

Alex    14 Jul 2016, 13:06
This is a new problem in my Word 2003 program. Sorry to say, nil improvement. I'll shut everything down and try again tomorrow. Could recent Windows updates be responsible ?
sk    08 Apr 2014, 02:52
Careful with all the points mentioned, still find-replace sometimes stops working for no reason. Using Word 2007
Steve Dunham    12 Dec 2011, 08:45
Another thing to check: make sure that "No Proofing" is not applied to portions (or all) of the document. I get so many documents to edit that have "No Proofing" in places that I routinely Select All, uncheck the "No Proofing" box, and make sure that the language is U.S. English. Besides interfering with a spelling check, those settings can prevent Word from finding things.

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