I would like to replace every instance of ... with the string \ldots, but both strings contain special characters. I have tried :%s/\<...\>/\ldots but this searches for all three character words and seemingly replaces them with "dots". How can I do this correctly? Thanks.

  • Which "both strings"? What do you mean by "special characters"? %s/\.\.\./\\ldots/g will replace all groups of three dots. Aug 5, 2016 at 17:59

2 Answers 2


I'm not positive as you're a little vague on the details, but I believe the problem stems from the fact that \l is not interpreted literally. Use \\l to get a literal \l in this case.

In a search and replace a \l will make the next character lowercase. To avoid this we escape the backslash with another backslash.

The second problem is that . in regex stands for any character. So, in fact \<...\> will search for any three character word as you've described. As Sato Katusura suggests, use \.\.\. to get three dots.


Tumbler41's answer is a great explanation of why your approach doesn't work. Here's another solution:

Use the "magic" flag. This tells vim which characters should be treated as special and which ones should not. If you specify "Nomagic" with \V, than only the backslash character will be special.


From :help magic

3. Magic                            */magic*

Some characters in the pattern are taken literally.  They match with the same
character in the text.  When preceded with a backslash however, these
characters get a special meaning.

Other characters have a special meaning without a backslash.  They need to be
preceded with a backslash to match literally.

                            */\v* */\V*
Use of "\v" means that in the pattern after it all ASCII characters except
'0'-'9', 'a'-'z', 'A'-'Z' and '_' have a special meaning.  "very magic"

Use of "\V" means that in the pattern after it only the backslash and the
terminating character (/ or ?) has a special meaning.  "very nomagic"

after:      \v       \m       \M         \V       matches
             $       $        $          \$       matches end-of-line
             .       .        \.         \.       matches any character
             *       *        \*         \*       any number of the previous atom
             ~       ~        \~         \~       latest substitute string
             ()      \(\)     \(\)       \(\)     grouping into an atom
             |       \|       \|         \|       separating alternatives
             \a      \a       \a         \a       alphabetic character
             \\      \\       \\         \\       literal backslash
             \.      \.       .          .        literal dot
             \{      {        {          {        literal '{'
             a       a        a          a        literal 'a'

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