The Problem: Readers prefer accentuated words to be in italics, but editors/publishers prefer them to be underlined.

  • Reason: Italics are naturally smoother to read, so the eye skims over them easier. When preparing a document for publishing, underlines are necessary so the typesetter’s eyes can pick out the accentuated words easier, and know which ones should be set as italics and which ones should be normal.)

The Question: How do I quickly convert all the underlined words in my document to italics (or vice-versa)?

The Solution

I am going to assume that you used Microsoft Word to type up your manuscript. I use Word 2004, so the images I’ve included are from that version. Yours might be slightly different, but not enough to matter.

The operation you’re going to want to use is Find & Replace. On a Mac, the shortcut for this is Shift+Command+H (command is the Apple key). On a PC, it is Ctrl+H.

A screen should pop up in your .doc with two text areas: “Find what,” and “Replace with.” There should be a little blue arrow under the Replace text area. That’s the button we want. Click it, and more options will appear.

Find & Replace #1

The option we want is the one that says “Format.” To get the “Format” option to highlight (i.e. become available), you must place your cursor in the “Find what” or “Replace with” text box (i.e. click in that box). Don’t type a word, just click there. (We’ll start out in the “Find what” box). Now the “Format” option should turn clarify (not be grayed out anymore), indicating you can click on it.

Find & Replace #2

Click on “Format,” and it will expand into several more selections. The one we want is called “Font,” — it allows you to search for text based on specific font characteristics (e.g. color, size, etc.).

Find & Replace #3

Now, since we want to find all the words in our document that are underlined, we are going to click on the button that says “Underline style.”

Find & Replace #4

Now, choose from the drop down options the line that is the thinnest. This is a normal underline. Click “OK.”

Find & Replace #5

The format window will disappear and the words “Format: Underline” will appear underneath your “Find what” text box.

Find & Replace #5.5

Good. Now place your cursor (click) in the “Replace with” box. Click “Format” and click on “Font” again. All right. Now, since we’re wanting to remove the underline from all the words we “found” and italicize them instead, we click on “Underline style” and select “(none),” and then under “Font style” we select “Italic.” Now click “OK.”

Find & Replace #6

The format window will disappear and the words “Format: Font:Italic, No underline” will appear underneath your “Replace with” text box.

Find & Replace #6.5

Now all you have to do is click “Replace All” and you’re done!

If you want to chance from italics to underlines, you just reverse the order in which you click your “Find what” and “Replace with” box, while keeping the order of the font selections.

To remove the formatting for “Find what” or “Replace with,” just click “No Formatting.”

Find & Replace #7

Happy writing!