Jun 27, 2012 David Lang

Refining a Wildcard Search

In yesterday's post, I searched all English Bibles for the following: do not be afraid <OR> d*n't be afraid <OR> do not fear <OR> d*n't fear <OR> be not afraid <OR> fear not. The reason I used the asterisk wildcard in the word "don't" was because Accordance checks every word entered against the word list of each Bible, and since Bibles like the NRSV do not use the word "don't," the search was failing for those Bibles. Using the asterisk wildcard broadens the search so that it matches any word in the word list beginning with "d" and ending with "nt", and since there aren't likely to be phrases like "descendant fear" or "different fear", chances are there won't be many false hits.

Still, how can we be sure there aren't any false hits? For example, when I first did this search with no wildcards, I found 119 hits in the HCSB.


After I replaced the "o" in "don't" with an asterisk wildcard, I got 122 hits in the HCSB. How can I find out what accounts for those three extra hits?

Let's start with the Search All window where we performed the wildcard search:


If we double-click HCSB in the left-hand pane, a Search tab will open displaying the search results for that individual Bible. We can then select Analysis from the Details pop-up to get a list of every phrase that was found by this search.


Scrolling through this list, we find the following:


As you can see, my wildcard search found the phrases "didn't fear" and "doesn't fear" as well as "don't fear," so it did introduce a few false hits. However, I can eliminate these by specifying words which should not be found by the wildcard search.

To do this, I'll simply add a minus sign after each "d*n't" in the argument entry box and type the word "didn't." Next, I'll add a second minus sign and type "doesn't." My search argument now looks like this:


This search now finds any word beginning with a "d" and ending in "nt" except the two words I've excluded: namely, "didn't" and "doesn't." When I run this search, I get the same 119 hits that I got before I used the wildcard.

Because I'm showing this feature to you in the context of a pretty complicated search with a lot of different phrases, I'm afraid you may get distracted by all the surrounding complexity and miss what I'm trying to show you today. So in my next post, I'll show this same feature in a way that is a little easier to wrap your mind around.

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