How to Find and Replace Formatting in Word 2016

By Dan Gookin

Perhaps the trickiest thing to replace in a Word 2016 document is formatting. Say you work at the DMV and you’ve been directed to change all underline text to italic. That trick is possible, but it runs the risk of screwing up the document’s formatting.

The general steps for replacing a format are as follows:

  1. Summon the Find and Replace dialog box (press Ctrl+H).

  2. Clear all text and formatting from the Find What and Replace With text boxes.

  3. Click the Find What text box, and then click the Format button to choose a format to find.

  4. Click the Replace With text box, and then use the Format button to select a replacement format.

    For some font attributes, you must also remove the original text format, which can be tricky.

  5. Click the Replace or Replace All buttons.

Better than the preceding generic steps, consider a specific example. Follow these steps to replace underline with italics:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to summon the Find and Replace dialog box.

  2. Click the More button, if necessary, to display the full dialog box.

  3. Click the Find What text box and erase any text there.

  4. If it’s available, click the No Formatting button.

    You want to direct the Replace command to ignore any previous formatting searches.

  5. Click the Format button and choose Font.

    The Find Font dialog box appears.

  6. Choose the solid underline from the Underline Style menu.

    It’s the third item in the menu, right above the double underline.

  7. Click OK to close the Find Font dialog box.

    The text Format: Underline appears below the Find What box.

  8. Click the Replace With text box and erase any text.

  9. Click the No Formatting button, if necessary, to remove any previous formatting.

  10. Choose Font from the Format button’s pop-up list.

    The Find Font dialog box appears.

  11. From the Font Style list, choose Italic.

  12. From the Underline Style list, choose (none).

    If you just chose the Italic style, Word would simply underline italic text. Instead, by choosing (none) as the underline style, Word removes any previously applied underline format.

  13. Click OK to close the Find Font dialog box.

    The text Format: Font: Italic, No underline appears below the Replace With box.

  14. Cross your fingers

  15. Click the Replace All button.

    Word scours your document and replaces any italic text with underline.

  16. Close the Find and Replace dialog box.

The key to replacing formatting is not only to replace one format with another but also to peel off the existing format. To do so, you replace an underline style with (none), or Italic with Not Italic, or Bold with Not Bold, and so on. That way, the text formatting is replaced, not added to.

An easier way to update formatting in a document is to use and apply styles.

Don’t forget about the No Formatting button! You need to click it if you want to change the formats or replace text without paying attention to formats.