The Volokh Conspiracy

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Changing Hyphens to En Dashes in Footnotes, in Bulk

Law review editors, take note!


Law review style is to write number ranges using en dashes (–) rather than hyphens (-). I'd prefer if that wasn't the norm, but it is; and for the Journal of Free Speech Law, we decided to stick with it. But many documents we get have hyphens; how can we easily change them to en dashes?

You can't do it automatically in Microsoft Word, because some hyphens need to be kept as hyphens, e.g., a statutory section might be § 12-34 (even though the page range would be 12–34). But you can come close, using the wildcards feature in Word:

You then click on Find Next, see if that looks like a page range, click Replace if it is and Find Next again if it isn't, and go on until everything is the way you like it.

How does this work?

  1. Checking "Use wildcards" shifts you into wildcard mode.
  2. ([0-9])-([0-9]) in the "Find what" box searches for a digit followed by a hyphen followed by a digit. The [0-9] indicates a digit, since it's anything from a 0 to a 9; and the parentheses wrapped around the brackets indicate that the item before the hyphen should be treated as (I'll call it) "thing 1" and the item after the hyphen should be treated as "thing 2."
  3. \1–\2 in the "Replace with" box means "replace whatever you find, if you're told to replace it, with thing 1, followed by an en dash, followed by thing 2."

So when you have "84-85" in your document, this will find the "4-8" (it's only searching for one digit before the hyphen and then one digit after that), and then—if you click "Replace"—replace the "4-8" with "4–8," thus leaving you with "84–85." Technology!