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Changing to UK English

Subscriber Stan Witz recently expressed his exasperation with getting Word 2000 to keep its language settings as English UK, rather than converting to English US. It seems that when he would make the changes necessary, eventually Word would always switch to English US.

Understanding how Word works with different languages can sometimes seem more difficult than actually learning those languages in the first place. There are, in reality, several different settings that come into play when working with languages in Word 2000 or later versions. To set the default language used by Word, you follow these steps:

  1. Choose Language from the Tools menu, then choose Set Language from the submenu. Word displays the Language dialog box.
  2. In the list of languages, select the one you want to use by default.
  3. Click on the Default button. You are asked to confirm you action.
  4. Close the Language dialog box.

The only thing that the Default button does is to change the language settings in whatever template you have attached to your current document. Thus, any new documents based on that template will default to the language you select. Any documents based on a different template will not, unless you change them, as well. In addition, any existing documents will not have their language changed. In order to affect an existing document, you need to do the following:

  1. Select the entire document (press Ctrl+A).
  2. Choose Language from the Tools menu, then choose Set Language from the submenu. Word displays the Language dialog box.
  3. In the list of languages, select the one you want to use by default.
  4. Click on the OK button.

The situation in regard to languages becomes even more complex, however. Let's say your template has been set to have English UK as its language. Further, the styles in the template have the Automatically Update flag set. (This is not uncommon.) If you later open a document from someone else that has the language set to English US, or you edit an HTML-encoded e-mail that uses English US, then the styles in your template could automatically update to reflect English US rather than English UK. The solution to this, obviously, is to make sure that the Automatically Update flag is turned off for all your styles.

Another complexity is the language-related settings in Windows itself. (You can see these by selecting Start | Settings | Control Panel | Regional Options. Pay attention to both the Regional Settings/General tab and the Input Locales tab.) If you have more than one keyboard (input locale) installed on your system, when you start a blank document--regardless of the template in use--Word will automatically apply direct formatting on the text matching the currently active input locale, thereby overriding the default setting in the Language dialog box. Word is designed this way so that when you start typing, the language Word assumes you want to use has the greatest probability of matching the actual language being typed.

It is important to note that Word's match-the-language-to-the-input-locale behavior applies direct (non-styled) formatting. The language in the template and its styles remains as you set it, Word simply overrides your default to match the setting of the input locale. The upshot, of course, is to make sure that the input locale specified in Windows is English UK, which is what you want Word to use for your documents.

Word 2000 and later versions have an additional feature that causes them to try to automatically determine the language you are actually typing, which in practice does not always match the language of the input locale (keyboard) you are using. This is controlled by the Detect Language Automatically check box in the Language dialog box. If you specify the languages you use in the Office Language Settings utility (Start | Programs | Microsoft Office Tools | Microsoft Office Language Settings), then the check box becomes active and you can select it. With the check box selected, Word tries to automatically detect the language you are typing, and then automatically sets the Language setting based on its determination.

Finally, even after you have the default language set as you really want it, the grammar and spelling tools may still not work properly. This is because those tools are not installed for all languages. Instead, you may need to purchase foreign language tools from Alki Software (this is where Microsoft would send you, as well). You can visit their Web site at http://www.proofing.com.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1678) applies to Microsoft Word 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Graham Hopkins    18 Oct 2016, 05:08
I am totally fed up with the Bastardised American form of my language being used instead of my own. If I have to select the correct form of English I should only have to do it once.
May Brit    07 Aug 2016, 03:26
That's useless. My Word for Mac keeps changing back to English US no matter how often I keep setting the Default language to English UK or English Australian the way you suggest. May Brit
Joe Jonkler    06 Jun 2016, 10:56
I have set UK English as my default but Word still seems unable to understand that. For example it refuses to recognise the fact that the word programme is correct UK English.
Wendy Hamilton    04 Jun 2016, 21:08
OSX El Capitan & Latest MSWord Product ID: 02985-010-000001 Version 15.21.1- cannot change from English US when using Insert Date & Time even though the Normal .dotm does now reflect English (AUS) changes - help!
steve    27 Apr 2016, 22:43
proofing.com is for sale...not working anymore
Shakiba    14 Nov 2015, 23:53
i need dictionary for changing the word English to english
Colin Hart    27 Oct 2015, 06:17
An excellent article; clearly explained and apparently complete. Thank you.
Adam    08 Sep 2015, 01:15
The Language settings can be found under the 'Review' tab
David Roberts    06 Aug 2015, 21:22
I have Office for Mac 2011 running on OSX 10.10.4 so you may not be able to help me. Nothing works; everytime I open any document it reverts to US English - I closed a document last night when I shut down but when I opened it first this morning it had reverted. My Mac language is set to Australian English, my Region is set to Australia, my keyboard is set to is set to Australian layout. I change the default language for Normal template. I can't see a 'detect langauge automatically check box in Word for mac.
GeordieLad    30 Apr 2015, 07:07
For Fred Lanting and jj

Hope I'm not "teaching granny to suck eggs" but surely you must have Tools at the top of your screen (above the various toolbars - ie, where it shows File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, Table, Window, Help)?

I have no problem with my version of Word (2000)
Fred Lanting    29 Apr 2015, 19:57
Word tip 1678 tells how to make UK English the default language for spellcheck etc. My computer (bought used with Win-7) already does that, but I want to make American English the default. It seems no matter what I do, it tells me the words are misspelled unless I change them to British. I tried Tip 1678 in reverse... no luck.
  Your tip starts with "1.Choose Language from the Tools menu" but what screen to I put up to find the tools menu, and how can I make it work for all future documents I type?
jj    15 Apr 2015, 13:55
there is not language tools !!!!!
Emily     24 Nov 2014, 00:21
Thank you so much! This solved my problem fast. This was really bugging me. I'm trying to write a screenplay for class from a template from Pages, and I converted it to Microsoft Word, Office 2010 for Apple. It was keeping the language as Spanish and every time I typed it was telling me I was misspelling everything because I was typing in English. Your tip to affect an existing document worked perfectly. I appreciate it!
Rafal    19 Nov 2014, 04:47
This confounded UK English proofing is driving me mad! "program" should be "programme"? I thought we were speaking English, not French. lol
Felicity    05 Jun 2014, 10:11

I have tried everything you suggested...got it off the web before. I restarted my computer and bam! the stupid thing will not keep my default language as UK Eng. I have changed it in the regional languages, I have a US keyboard, which makes it irritating as it goes to a UK keyboard, swopping things like @ and ", but I literally have to change to UK English on every contraversial word during the spellcheck, it just goes back to US English.

I had this once before, easrleir version of Word, I ended up deleting the US language dictionary files, but I'd rather not do that...I guess I could find them and move them to a glash drive! Any ideas????

Aminul Islam    08 Sep 2013, 15:40
How I change my word dictionary as a default UK dictionary
gary    02 Jan 2013, 18:38
Just a quick thanks really. I imported this multi lingual tablet which necessitated a resetting.That was ok pretty much except it had forgotten to multitask as far as languages were concerned. I'm afraid my Oriental writing, feading nor speaking are up to much so without your gadget I'd have been fucked!! Sorry, couldn't resist.
Thank you

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