I would really appreciate some help with this. I am working with a large corpus of text that has been marked-up with XML script and I need to tidy some things up. More specifically, there are several hundred numbers in square brackets (i.e., like '[1234]') that I need to delete (brackets included). Each number is different and there can be anything from 3 to 5 digits in these numbers.

The second thing I need to do is to place XML tags around some other pieces of text. These are names in round brackets. I.e., like:

He (Mr. Smith) said...

Which I want to change to:

He <annot> (Mr. Smith) </annot> said...'.

How can I perform both of these changes?

I've already tried using Extended Mode and searching for '[.*]', but it returns no hits. When I try the same with RegEx I get lots of hits, but it seems to be searching for each and every square bracket in the corpus.

1 Answer 1


The square brackets are a special token in regular expressions ([a-z] means any character in the range a to z), so you'd have to escape them.

Your search expression would become \[\d+\] (with \d+ meaning one or more digits). However you want to replace this with the digits alone. You need to setup a capturing group, using parentheses, and reference it in the replace expression. Your settings become:

  • Search for: \[(\d+)\]
  • Replace with: \1

As for your second problem, I'm not sure I understand it properly with the context you give... if only names are between parenthesis, you can just replace \([^\)]+\) with <annot> \0 </annot>, or maybe \(Mr\. [^\)]+\) if the names are preceded by Mr..

To get into details, the way it works is so:

  • the parenthesis you search for have to be escaped (as they are normally used to define capturing groups, so you use \( and \)
  • [^...]+ means one or more characters which is not ...
  • your search expression is therefore an opening parenthesis, followed by any characters which is not a closing parenthesis (so it should match the names), followed by a closing parenthesis.
  • \0 represents the whole searched expression in the replacement area

If you have a list of those names to replace, then you'd better use \(whatever name\) as the search expression, and if you don't, then it's impossible, as you can't make a regexp "guess" what's a name and what's not.

  • 2
    Also, you need to expilictly search using regex. Extended mode only does \t for tabs, \r \n for new lines, etc.
    – LPChip
    Jul 18, 2014 at 14:21

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