Working with European Date Format in Microsoft Word

If you’re a translator, you need an easy way to convert European date format to US format in your documents. Now you’ve got one.

In fact, it’s a fairly straightforward process that will save you a lot of time. Just follow the steps below.

Here’s our process:

  • Ensure that all dates in your document are indeed in European format, i.e., dd-mm-yyyy (or dd-mm-yy).
  • Use a regular expression in MS Word’s Advanced Find/Replace feature to locate all dates in European format.
  • Change dates to US format using the Replace button.
  • Check the result.

The second column of Figure 1 (a Spanish-language source document) contains European date format. This means that the day appears first followed by the month. Conceptually, the dates look like this: [two-digit day] [hyphen] [two-digit month] [hyphen] [four-digit year].

convert european date format

Figure 1. Microsoft Word’s Find/Replace is a powerful tool. Among other things, it lets you change European dates without changing any numbers. (Click to enlarge.)


US date format, of course, puts the month first, like this: [two-digit month] [hyphen] [two-digit day] [hyphen] [four-digit year].

You can save yourself a lot of manual work, because MS Word can do the conversions for you if you use regular expressions. (Regular expressions are combinations of text and wildcard characters.)

Remember: if you can automate a task, then you should! (Nine times out of ten, anyway.)

How to Convert European Date Format to US Format in Word

Step 1: In Word’s Find dialog box, check “Use wildcards” (Figure 2).

convert european date format

Figure 2. This regular expression finds all dates in European format (ddmmyyyy). (Click to enlarge.)


Step 2: In the Find what: field, type the following sequence:


In plain English, the above means “Find a two-digit number (here, the day) followed by a hyphen followed by a two-digit number (the month) followed by another hyphen followed by a four-digit number (the year).”

(We’re not actually changing the year, but this step ensures that we won’t inadvertently find and replace strings that we don’t want to convert.)


Step 3: In the Replace with: field, type the following:


The above means “Switch the order of the first term (1\) and the second term (2\) but leave the third term (3\) as is (Figure 3). Notice the hyphen between each term. (We “replace” the hyphens so there isn’t a second operation to do later.)

convert european date format

Figure 3. The text in the “Replace with:” field tells Microsoft Word to transpose the first and second terms. (Click to enlarge.)


Step 4: Click “Replace All” to convert all European-formatted dates to US-formatted dates; the digits stay the same (Figure 4).

convert european date format

Figure 4. All date strings have been changed from European date format to US format. (Click to enlarge.)


So why add the year in our string if we’re not doing anything to it?

Well, consider what would happen if we searched only for two-term strings separated by a hyphen, e.g., “08-12,” “12-15,” etc. These strings could represent month-year combinations in European and US formats. In the event that our document has any dates that don’t include the day, we won’t accidentally change them.

Make your regular expressions specific so you can avoid changing strings that don’t need to be changed.

Final Word

Want to see for yourself how it works? If so, download a sample table and give it a go!

Knowing how to convert European date format to US format in Word can save you a lot of time. In fact, it’s a trick that all translators should have up their sleeve.

But what if you work in the other direction (say, English into Spanish)?

No problem. The above trick will work as well. (After all, the details may be different, but principle is the same: transposition.)

“Consejo de Seguridad,” United Nations.

Did you like this tip? Then tell your colleagues how easy it is to change European date format by sharing this post!

Need to convert European number format to US format? Then check out our related post: European Number Format Conversion in MS Word.

For another tip, see how to work with nonbreaking spaces in Word.