Auto-Replacing Italics with Underlines in Microsoft Word

When you submit something for publication–be it a novel or a short story–you’ll probably have to put it in Standard Manuscript Format. And while most folks are fine with 12pt Times New Roman and italics (which I strongly prefer), you occasionally find folks who really want the “Courier New + underlines instead of italics” variant.

Today I submitted a story to a place that wanted just that. So what was I going to do? Reformat the entire story by hand?

Thankfully, I just discovered that Word’s search and replace feature will do this for you. Here’s how!

  1. First, open Word’s Find and Replace tool (shortcut: Control+H).Screenshot of MS Word's Find and Replace box.
  2. Select “More >>”
  3. At the bottom, select Format, then “Font…”Screenshot showing the location of Format > Font...
  4. In the “Font Style” box, select “Italic.”
  5. Hit OK. Now your “Find Box” should say “Find what: Format: Font: Italic.”Screenshot showing FInd: Format: Font: Italic.
  6. Now move your cursor to the “Replace With” box.
  7. Do (almost) the same thing. Go to Format > Font…
  8. Under “Underline Style,” select one underline, with the thinnest line. Screenshot showing the Underline Style section.
  9. Word should know look like this:Screenshot showing Find Italics Replace with Underline.
  10. Replace all!
  11. This will make your italic font underlined, but it’ll still be italic. To remove the italics, select all of the text in the file (shortcut: Control+A).
  12. Hit the italics button twice. (Or just use shortcut: Control+I twice.)
  13. This will put your entire story in italics, then remove it all. Once you’re done, there’ll be no italic font left in your story–just the stuff you underlined before.

And voila! That’s it.

You’ll probably want to do a quick scan through the file to clean it up. You can’t tell when the space after a word is italicized, for example, but you’ll definitely realize it when it’s underlined. Fix all of that.

Find and Replace can also fix most of your manuscript formatting issues, such as:

  • Replacing two spaces after the end of a sentence with one space
  • Adding extra line breaks after paragraphs (for when you need to go from double-spaced to single-spaced, but with extra space between paragraphs–a very common style for query letters.)
  • Converting all of Word’s curly quotation marks to straight quotation marks.

…And much more. I’ve used Find and Replace for a lot of stuff over the years. And now that I know you can mass-replace formatting, it’s going to be a heck of a lot easier to submit to a variety of places–no matter how they want the story to look.

3 thoughts on “Auto-Replacing Italics with Underlines in Microsoft Word

    1. Hey there! When I made the screenshots above, I was on… Word 2007 or something, so they screenshots above are very old. But it should still work in the most recent version of Word!

      • You have to open Advanced Find (not just the normal find you get with Control+F). This is under Home > Find > Advanced Find.
      • That brings up a window that’s nearly identical to the one in the screenshots above. (It’s called “Find and Replace”.) In the bottom-left corner, there’s a button called “Format.” Click that!

      • That opens a drop-down menu with several options. One is “Font.” Click that!

      • This opens the Find Font window (which looks similar to the Replace Font window, which I have in a screenshot above.) In any case, there’s a menu called “Font” and one called “Font Style”. You’ll be able to select Italic in the Font Style menu.

      If you’re in that window and there’s no option for “Italic,” make sure you select the font that your document is written in in the “Font” menu. Not all fonts have italic versions, so if you select a font that doesn’t have one, that might be why you don’t see the option.

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