I previously wrote about using wildcards in Word to find abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms that used two or more capital letters, but that post didn’t address how to highlight these so that you can identify them easily when compiling a list of abbreviations. This one does.
- Make sure you have a highlight colour selected (Home tab, Font group) that isn’t used for anything else.
- Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace window.
- Click More to show further options.
- Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
- In the Find what field, type: (<[A-Z]2,>)
- In the Replace with field, type: 1
- With your cursor still in the Replace with field, click Format (bottom of the window) then Highlight. The word ‘Highlight’ should display immediately below the Replace with field.
- Click Find next to find the first string of two or more capitals.
- If this is an acronym, abbreviation, or initialism, click Replace. The term remains the same but should now be highlighted in the colour you chose in Step 1.
- Repeats Steps 8 and 9 to jump to and/or highlight the next string of two or more caps.
- Optional but not recommended: If you are confident that the only strings of capital letters in your document are acronyms etc., then click Replace All. Note: Every string of capitals will be highlighted, even those that are repeats of ones you highlighted earlier and those that aren’t acronyms etc. (e.g. document numbers, fully capped words).
How this works:
- The opening and closing parentheses contain the Find command and allow you to reference it in the Replace.
- The opening and closing arrow brackets (< and >) specify that you want a single whole word, not parts of a word. Without these, you would find each set of caps (e.g. in the string ABCDEF, you would find ABCDEF, then BCDEF, then CDEF, then DEF, then EF, before moving on to the next set of caps).
- [A-Z] specifies that you want a range (the [ ] part) of caps that fall somewhere in the alphabet (A-Z). If you only wanted capped words that started with, say, H through to M, then you’d change the range to [H-M] and all other capped words starting with other letters would be ignored.
- 2, means you want to find capped words with at least two letters in the specified range (i.e. A-Z). If you only wanted to find two- and three-letter capped words, then you’d change this to 2,3, and all capped word of four or more letters would be ignored. By not specifying a number after the comma, the ‘find’ will find capped words of any length containing at least two letters.
- The 1 in the Replace and ‘Highlight’ below that field tells Word to replace what was found with itself, and to highlight it with the selected highlight colour.
Note: This technique does NOT find initialisms separated by periods or any other punctuation; it will find UNICEF but not U.N.I.C.E.F.