What’s the best way to search for a needle in a haystack? It’s simple, really. You just remove the haystack and leave the needle behind. With a few tricks, it’s possible to do the equivalent with Word’s search function.
It’s common for authors to opt for curly quotes and apostrophes. However, a few straight ones love to creep in. As a proofreader, it’s my job to find them. Here’s a screenshot from a book I’m currently checking:
Rather than check all 4,586, I’d rather Word only showed me the ones in need of attention. Luckily, there’s a code for purely straight quotes/apostrophes: ^039. (The ^ is typed by holding shift and pressing 6.)
I can use the same trick for straight double quotes with ^034. These codes on their own have saved me hours during proofreading work. I’m also going to mention one more, and that’s ^p. This makes Word search for the paragraph mark (¶ if you show formatting).
On its own, that’s not much use, but what about if you want to search for rogue spaces at the beginning of a line? (Such as at the start of this paragraph.) You can do this by adding a space after the p in the search bar: ^p(put a space here!).
This should show you all of the places where an extra space has crept in at the start of a paragraph. (This may not work where paragraphs have been indented using the tab key.)
There are a huge number of other codes, but the ones I’ve mentioned are definitely my favourites. Do you have a Word trick you couldn’t survive without? Get in touch and let me know!