Changing to UK English

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 1, 2021)


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

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.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is one minus 1?

2021-07-23 05:09:56



There are 18 different English dictionaries and the choice of acceptable words is sometimes strange. For example of the words realise and realize, just realise is accepted in the Australian and New Zealand dictionaries, just realize is accepted in the Canadian, US, UK and Singapore dictionaries and both are accepted in the Irish, Indian and Hong Kong dictionaries.

Of the words flavor and flavour, just flavor is accepted in the Canadian and US dictionaries and just flavour is accepted in all other dictionaries.

2021-07-22 19:34:03

June Hedlund

Is it possible to convert and existing document from US English to UK English?

2021-05-09 05:05:47


Trouble is, the English dictionary is not correct UK English - words like organise, centre and so on are an issue - Word wants to replace those with z formats. It is infuriating.

2020-04-06 09:12:39

Chris Mitchell

This doesn't work.
Every single new document I load defaults to English US, regardless of how many times I change the default to English UK. I've even changed the language to UK for the document I'm working on, only for it to change it back to US once I start writing again. I've followed the exact steps detailed above, and it still does not work. I am sick and tired of this broken default system. I am a UK resident, born and raised here, and I hate the fact that Microsoft Word assumes that I am secretly American or prefer the American variant to my own.
If there IS a permanent solution, I would be very happy to learn about it, because this is unacceptable.

2019-08-12 07:23:05

Feleft Tassew

I wanted to join now

2018-12-26 17:30:14

Darryl rudd

I would like to change my language to English

2018-11-22 07:30:24


Thanks - this worked perfectly!

2017-11-01 14:10:26


You have to select and highlight the entire page before choosing default language.

2017-02-15 11:18:54

Jennifer McGirr

I am sick to death of the American spell check which seems to be impossible to change even though my Windows 10 is set to UK English! With so many words spelt differently this is an ongoing annoyance which is nearly driving me insane!!!!!

2017-02-06 20:26:04


Thanks for this article. I have just been able to change my default setting to UK English.This saves a me some stress when writing my assignments.

2016-10-18 05:08:54

Graham Hopkins

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.

2016-08-07 03:26:56

May Brit

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

2016-06-06 10:56:01

Joe Jonkler

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.

2016-06-04 21:08:23

Wendy Hamilton

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!

2016-04-27 22:43:26

steve is for sale...not working anymore

2015-11-14 23:53:52


i need dictionary for changing the word English to english

2015-10-27 06:17:26

Colin Hart

An excellent article; clearly explained and apparently complete. Thank you.

2015-09-08 01:15:42


The Language settings can be found under the 'Review' tab

2015-08-06 21:22:19

David Roberts

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.

2015-04-30 07:07:36


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)

2015-04-29 19:57:40

Fred Lanting

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?

2015-04-15 13:55:31


there is not language tools !!!!!

2014-11-24 00:21:57


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!

2014-11-19 04:47:31


This confounded UK English proofing is driving me mad! "program" should be "programme"? I thought we were speaking English, not French. lol

2014-06-05 10:11:42



I have tried everything you 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????

2013-09-08 15:40:08

Aminul Islam

How I change my word dictionary as a default UK dictionary

2013-01-02 18:38:31


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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