The PLUS Operator Has Been Replaced

booleanstringsBoolean, Uncategorized 3 Comments


This seems like a big piece of news.

When you try to use the operator + (meaning, give me the exact term), you now get this message:

The + operator has been replaced. To search for an exact word or phrase, use double quotation marks

The help page reflects the changes.

It has been somewhat awkward that Google introduced Google-Plus and their PLUS operator meant something different. (Can we expect the PLUS to come back as an operator to search Google-Plus? That would be nice.)

For now, this creates a bit of inconvenience for us. We can use quotation marks around a word but that’s more typing.

In the cases where we misspell a word – or search for a word that is rare but spells like a well known word – we can expect Google to inform  us of searches for the word variations. (Then it’s another click if you did mean to misspell it.) In most cases Google now not only varies the word (auto-stemming“) but in fact goes for synonyms without us asking for that with the ~ operator (also gone from the list!). So now we can only control the search for a particular word with the quotation marks. As a slow typer, I don’t like that.

This also throws off lots of documentation, tutorials and help pages – including mine. As I think of it, it probably invalidates some software, generating dynamic queries, and some custom search engines as well.

On a more technical note, you can still add&nfpr=1 to the end of your search query’s URL to prevent Google from second-guessing.

Comments 3

  1. The ‘+’ operator, in search syntax, never meant “give me the exact string”; that was always only the job of double quotes. The plus sign–to be used with a space before it but never after–returns hits containing both (or all) words anywhere in proximity in any order or location, adjacent or not. So, for example, a search on [ dessert +wine ] would, yes, find “dessert wine”, but it also would find “a wine that’s good with dessert”. That’s why Google’s statement that since “The + operator has been replaced”, “To search for an exact word or phrase, use double quotation marks” is not even relevant and helps not at all! The purpose of ‘+’ in search syntax has nothing to do with a “search for an exact word or phrase”. Rather, ‘ +’ assures that the hits will have the words somewhere but not necessarily together. If I replace [ word1 +word2 ] with [ “word1 word2” ] I’ll only get “word1 word2” and never anything like “word1 comes before word2” or even “word2 word1” as should happen. Google’s suggestion to substitute quotes for the ‘ +’ operator is bewildering.

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