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How To Change Punctuation Using Wild Cards

Find and Replace is such a powerhouse feature in Word. Unfortunately, a lot of folks barely scratch the surface of what it can do.  Me, I love doing things quickly and easily. I love, love, love to save time and keystrokes, and using Find and Replace allows me to do exactly that!

Recently, I had someone ask me how he could switch quotation marks from British to American style. You see, The British style is to place the punctuation mark outside the quotation, whereas in America, we place the final punctuation mark inside the quotation. He was flummoxed as to how he could make this switch quickly and easily.

Follow the steps below to learn how:

  1. Go to the first instance of the quotation mark you would like to change and copy it. You copy it because there is all manner of symbols used for quotation marks and you can be sure you have it right this way.
  2. Press CTRL + H which will open the Find and Replace dialog.
  3. Click More.
  4. Check Use wildcards.
  5. In the Find what area, key in (paste your copied quotation mark here)([.,;:\?\!]).
  6. In the Replace with area, key in \2\1\.
  7. Click Find Next.
  8. Click Replace on each instance you would like to change. Click Replace All if you are sure that you will not change something else inadvertently.

That worked perfectly for this gentleman and it can for you as well!

4 thoughts on “How To Change Punctuation Using Wild Cards”

  1. Happy New Year Carol. I do not use Word but follow your articles. I am lost with these two steps.
    “In the Find what area, key in (paste your copied quotation mark here)([.,;:\?\!]).
    In the Replace with area, key in \2\1\.”
    What does all those characters represent, Mindblower!

  2. I am aware not all users acknowledge replies, and authors might also be busy, but how long should one wait till frustration sets, Mindblower!

  3. Happy New Year to you as well. Due to the holidays and an unforeseen medical issue, I have been previously unable to respond to you inquiry. I will now endeavor to do so although I am not certain this will be helpful to you except in Microsoft Word, which you say you do not use. Here goes:

    1. There are two elements at play here.
    2. In the first element you paste your quotation mark and it will be surrounded by both opening and closing parentheses.
    3.l In the second element there will also be a set of opening and closing parentheses, as well as an opening and closing set of square brackets, which will show that you are searching for a range of characters (i.e. comma, period, semicolon, colon, etc.) In a Wild Card Find search, the exclamation point and the question mark are special characters that show you are searching for a character and not its function. This is done with a back slash.
    In Replace, you need to position the second element before the first (transposition) with nothing else (i.e., \2\1\.
    I hope I have sufficiently answered your inquiry now.

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