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: Replacing Spaces in Part Numbers with Dashes.

Replacing Spaces in Part Numbers with Dashes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 8, 2011)

Terry has a document that contains a lot of numeric data. Often, the document has part numbers with spaces in them, such as "422 891A." Terry needs a way to search through the document and find any "digit-space-digit" sequence and replace it with "digit-dash-digit." For instance, "422 891A" would be changed to "422-891A." Terry wonders if there is a way to do this with Find and Replace.

This type of find-and-replace operation can be done quite easily by using the wildcard searching built into Word. Here's the quick version:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click on the More button if it is available.
  3. Select the Use Wildcards check box.
  4. In the Find What box enter "([0-9]) ([0-9])", without the quote marks and with a single space in the middle.
  5. In the Replace With box enter "\1-\2", again without the quote marks.
  6. Click on the Replace All button.

That's it. When the Use Wildcards check box is selected (in step 3), Word allows you to use patterns in the search. In this case, each instance of [0-9] means "match any single digit in the range of 0 through 9." The parentheses around each instance is for grouping purposes that allows what is found within that group to be referenced in the Replace With box. So, essentially, the Find What pattern matches any single digit followed by a space followed by any single digit.

What is then entered in the Replace With box is a set of references to what was found. The \1 and \2 indicators mean "what was found in the first set of parentheses and what was found in the second set of parentheses." So, this means "replace the first digit with itself, followed by a dash, then replace the second digit with itself."

Of course, you may need to get even more specific in the pattern you search for, if it is possible that the digit-space-digit pattern may appear in other places in the document and you don't want them affected. In that case, perhaps your part-number pattern consists of three digits followed by a space and then three more digits and then a single alphabetic character, as shown in the example provided at the first of this tip. If that is the case, then you can search for the following in step 4:

([0-9]{3}) ([0-9]{3})([A-Z])

In this case, you'll immediately note the addition of two instances of {3}. These characters are an indicator that there needs to be three of whatever immediately precedes the indicator. Thus, there needs to be three digits, each of 0 through 9. Also, the [A-Z] characters matches a single capital letter in the range of A through Z.

Also note that there are three sets of parentheses in this Find What pattern. These then can be referenced in the Replace With box (step 5), as follows:

\1-\2\3

Since this search is more specific, there is very little chance that you will replace spaces with dashes where you didn't mean to do a replacement.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10834) 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: Replacing Spaces in Part Numbers with Dashes.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Page Numbers in VBA

When you print a larger worksheet, Excel breaks the printout across several pages. You may want to know, before you print, ...

Discover More

Saving and Using a Form

After you have created your custom form, you will need to save it so that you can use it as often as needed. Word makes this ...

Discover More

Precision in Excel

The best way to understand why Excel provides the answers it does is to examine how it handles precision. This tip provides a ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

MORE WORDTIPS (MENU)

Replacing Multiple Spaces with Tabs

If you get a document or some text that has multiple consecutive spaces used to align information, you'll undoubtedly be ...

Discover More

Replacing a Colon in a Sequence

Sometimes you'll run across the need to replace a very specific sequence of characters in your document. It is for these ...

Discover More

Adding an Ellipsis to the Beginning of Some Paragraphs

The Find and Replace feature of Word is very powerful. You can even use it to add a unique character to the beginning of ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing
Share