You probably know that if you want to find this blog using the Google search engine, it won’t help to search for web owls. That search currently returns nine million results, because it finds every page that contains the words “web” and “owls” on it, whether the words are adjacent or not.
You can search for a phrase by enclosing the words in doublequotes. A search for “web owls” returns 144 pages, each of which contains the word “web” followed immediately by the word “owls”.
Google offers an alternative syntax which works the same way, and is not so widely known, but is sometimes easier to type. Simply use a dot between each word: web.owls for example.
Why use this form? If you have searched without quotes and received an unmanageable-large number of results, it’s tedious to click-at-the-start, shift-doublequote, click-at-the-end, shift-doublequote. It’s easier to simply replace the space by a dot.
I also use the dot-form in another situation. Suppose I am trying to find a specific phrase, but don’t remember it properly. For example, suppose I have searched for “able I saw elba” and received no results. It takes a lot of fiddling around with doublequotes to search for various subphrases until I find that a search for able “I saw elba” returns the pages that contain “able was I, ere I saw Elba!”.
Incidentally, there are other characters you can use instead of dots. Slashes, apostrophes and the equals sign work the same way (I’m only interested in punctuation that doesn’t use the shift key on my keyboard).
Other characters, such as hash and hyphen, work differently.