Italicise text between speech marks using advanced find and replace in MS Word

by Captain Walker

Categories: Education, Technology

All of this post is my notes. It is not designed for ‘you’. I use advanced features of find and replace in MS Word. I write my notes like self-talk because I’ve noticed that in a few months’ time I may not remember every aspect of this.


Recently I wanted to find an easy way of italicising text between quotation (speech) marks in a whole document. Normally what I would do, is select text between the speech marks and then press CTRL + I. Well, that becomes effortful when I have a large document with lots of quoted text. Because I can type pretty quickly my interviews are some verbatim, interspersed with descriptive content in reported speech.

For example when I type text would appear as follows =>

Mr Blogs said, “My appetite is good. I eat three balanced meals per day and I go to the gym 3 times per week.” He was able to enjoy his meals but was not gaining or losing weight. He said that, “I have a big interests in football. But I spend too much time on Facebook.”

I would need to turn from ‘My’ to ‘week‘ and ‘I’ to ‘Facebook‘ into italics. That involves a lot of mouse and keyboard work, when I have 3 pages of that sort of stuff. It is keyboard and mouse-work intensive – to manually select text and then do CTRL + I.


This “*” – notice open and closed speech marks – in the ‘Advanced Find & Replace’ feature in MS Word (O365), will select every instance where text appears between those open and closed speech marks. Then it is easy to select formatting for the ‘Replace’ part of the operation.

Notably I use ‘Styles’ to add different kinds of emphasis to my text. Why? Because I have noticed that changing the style of paragraphs – as I do on occasions – will erase the italics I might have put in with CTRL + I. Using a style for emphasis within a style for a paragraph doesn’t remove the emphasis style.

Field testing

This week, I used the above across several documents: probably about 50 pages in total. It worked like a dream. Had I passed these documents to a secretary, it would have taken them about an hour of mouse and keyboard work. I did the changes in those 50 pages in like 5 min, using the above method.

Rude interruption

Stupid: So you’re a secretary now?

CW: No.

Stupid: But you’re saying that you’re better than a secretary.

CW: No. I’m saying that on the specific task I found the method above to be far more efficient to what secretaries would do.

Stupid: And how do you know what secretaries “would do”?

CW: I have a pretty good idea because I’ve worked with countless secretaries across the whole country, over the last 30 years.

Stupid: And?

CW: And – that means I have real evidence about their levels of skill and what they do inside MS Word documents.

Stupid: How would you know what they’re doing in the Word documents?

CW: Because on many occasions I’ve had to sit with them and instruct them on changes to be made.

Stupid: So you’re an instructor now?

CW: Chrysst! No. I’m not an instructor. My job involves some aspects of direction and instruction. Have you worked with secretaries?

Stupid: Don’t be daft! You know the answer to that.

CW: Yes but anybody reading your rubbish won’t know what I know of you. Answer up! Else!

Stupid: N…nn.. no.

CW: Good! Now I can shut you down – poof!


Took 5 mins to recover from that idiot above.

Moving on – one might wonder why I don’t share these tips with secretaries. It is this simple: they don’t want to know, and if shown they’ll go “Oooo…you’re so clever..that’s clever” – but then revert to what they always did. Why? Because – I know these people – they really don’t want to change, don’t want to learn, and not interested in updating their skills.


Many people don’t know about ‘Advance find/replace’ features in MS Word. I’m obviously not ‘many people’.  Actually, most people – calling themselves ‘luddites’ and proud to be – only use less than 10% of the power of MS Word. That’s apparently fiiiinnnne, as mediocrity and ‘luddite-ism’ are worshiped in The Empire.

I’ve shown to myself that spending a few minutes learning new tricks can save a load of time and effort. Obviously, me being ‘not everybody’ will find time to learn new tricks. Compared to various metaphorical ‘old dogs’, I’m therefore a young dog.

The reading of posts on this blog is subject to the Terms & Conditions. Unpalatable truths and personal experiences may be told. Nothing posted on this blog is directed at any identified person. On occasions individuals are quoted anonymously. That does not mean that they have been identified to the world. Should any person or organisation reading this blog find something that makes them feel or know that they  are being referred to - any such perceived identification does not mean 'identified to the world'. ‘Stupid' is an impish figment of my imagination who occasionally is allowed to pop up – and does not represent any known individual or individuals. ‘Stupid'  carries the characteristics groups of people with 'social media mindsets'. The treatment of  'Stupid' is not representative of the way people are treated in real life. Adverse inferences made are dismissed in advance. 

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