Changing to UK English

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 27, 2014)

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.

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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