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I'm working on layout for a 300-page trilingual “coffee table” style textbook, and one of the languages uses a glottal stop symbol which the chosen body text font can't handle. This means that for every instance of this symbol, the font must change to TNR and then back to the font of the main body text.

I sincerely hope there a way I can automate this, perhaps with styles. At the moment I'm using a find-replace to change the fonts individually and semi-manually, which is tedious and accident-prone.

Is there a tool or method in InDesign which will automatically recognize a particular symbol and change its font whenever that symbol appears?

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Yes! It's called GREP styles, and you'll find it under paragraph styles.

It allows you to enter a "regular expression" ( code-based super powerful advanced search), then, it applies a character style of your choice to anything that matches those criteria, instantly and automatically. If you edit text so a snippet no longer matches the criteria, the character style falls off.

For something simple like matching one character, just copying and pasting that one character in should do the job (or it might be listed as a special character).

For more sophisticated things, it gives you a menu of options to choose from - the trick is patience and trial&error.

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So any time I add text containing the symbol, it'll automatically get re-styled? Sweet. – BESW Jul 13 '13 at 7:48
Yes - it applies it to any text with that style matching those criteria any time instantly. If you want the rule to apply to all text everywhere, apply the rule to the default basic paragraph style. It's a good idea to use a really clear obvious character style when testing a grep rule - with preview ticked, it's easy to tweak until it's right – user568458 Jul 13 '13 at 17:46

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