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Changing between English Variants

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Changing between English Variants.

English is English, right? No, it is not. Ask anyone who works with international documents; they know that there are many variations of English. For instance, in US English words that are spelled one way (organize, catalog, behavior, etc.) are spelled differently in UK English (organise, catalogue, behaviour, etc.). The upshot of these variations is that you may also need to produce different versions of your documents for audiences that use the different language variations.

The traditional way of doing the conversion from one variation to another is straightforward:

  1. Select the text to be converted. (For instance, select the entire document.)
  2. Choose Language from the Tools menu, then choose Set Language from the resulting submenu. Word displays the Language dialog box.
  3. Select the variation to which you want to convert.
  4. Click on OK. Word examines the text and marks spellings and grammar differences according to the language that you selected.
  5. Press F7. Word starts the spelling and grammar checking utility.
  6. Make corrections, as appropriate, when prompted.

If you do a lot of textual conversions, going through these steps can become very routine, to the point of tedium. It would seem to be a simple thing to simply change the spellings from one English variation to another, without the need for manual review in this manner. Unfortunately, Word doesn't provide such a feature. You can, however, create a macro that would do the conversions for you. Follow these general steps:

  1. Identify a list of words whose spelling you want to convert.
  2. Turn on the macro recorder.
  3. Use the Replace feature to replace the spellings.
  4. Turn off the macro recorder.

You now have a macro that will do a conversion from one variation to the other. Later, as you become aware of more words that need to be automatically replaced, you can edit the macro and add those words.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1591) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Changing between English Variants.

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Comments for this tip:

Tom    15 Mar 2013, 12:58
The problem with this method of conversion is that it may not pick up words with more than one meaning that have a single spelling in the source language but are spelt differently in the target language. For example, "meter" in US English may be "meter" (device for measurement of e.g. energy consumption) or "metre" (unit of length) in UK English.

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