If you’ve used MS Word, you’ll be familiar with search for/find words and phrases. To bring up a search dialogue box in older Word versions (pre 2007), press Ctrl-F. In newer versions of Word, Ctrl-F will work but the Advanced Find box is harder to get at. It can be accessed by clicking the down arrow at the right end of the search box. I’ve written a post about Advanced Find in new versions of Word here.
That’s fine but what about finding duplicate paragraphs in your document? This could occur when there are a number of collaborators on a document and they independently paste in repeat paragraphs of the same text. Well I’ve discovered that there’s a way to find repeat paragraphs. I had to edit another author’s document last week. After getting most of the way through it, a paragraph sounded very familiar. I checked back though the document and sure enough, he had used the exact same paragraph earlier – they had probably both been pasted into the document on different occasions. I then found further obvious repeated paragraphs, and then it occurred to me, what if I’ve missed less obvious duplicate paragraphs? Can Word find these repeat paragraphs for me automatically?
I searched around on Google and found one answer that seems to work and I’m indebted to Klaus Linke who commented on the Wordbanter forum. Go to the top of your document and open the Advanced Find box as outlined at the start of this post. Paste the following into the Find what box: (^13[!^13]@^13)*\1 (I’ve no idea what it means!) and make sure Use wildcards is checked
When you click Find Next, the first repeated paragraph it finds will be the paragraphs at the beginning and end of the selection. Delete the last selected paragraph, then return to the top of the document and repeat the procedure until all the duplicate paragraphs have been removed. Remember that this only works if the paragraphs are exactly the same (same capitalization, same word spacing, etc). And there must always be one paragraph (or at least a double carriage return) between the repeated paragraphs.
I admit, it’s not the most elegant of solutions but it works for me. I’m running Word 2010 but the routine should also work in older versions or Word. Have you found a better solution to find repeated paragraphs? Drop a comment below.