Converting European number formats in Microsoft Word

Converting European number formats in Microsoft Word: Overview

Thinking of converting European number formats in Microsoft Word? Good. RedLine has you covered. See the steps here.

Converting European number formats in Microsoft Word involves the following:

  • evaluating the numeric strings in your document
  • using regular expressions in Word’s Find/Replace feature to find all instances of those strings
  • replacing those strings
  • checking that the operation has worked the way you intended

In Figure 1, we have table from a French source document. The data in the table is in European format. Here, it’s [whole number] [comma] [tenths place value].

01-before-1024x631-1-8320433Figure 1. All data is in European format, which won’t work for a U.S. audience. (Click to enlarge.)

We want to change all instances of European number format to U.S. number format: [whole number] [period] [tenths place value]. You could make the change manually—putting your cursor behind the comma, deleting the comma, then typing a period—but why would you?

If you have hundreds (or even dozens) of instances in your document, you’ll save yourself a lot of time by getting your software to work for you. Converting European number formats in Microsoft Word is a task that can—and should—be automated.

Notice that the whole numbers in our table have either one or two digits. In Microsoft Word, we capture that by using a regular expression. A regular expression is a combination of text and wildcard characters.

Converting European number formats in Microsoft Word: Steps

    1. Open up Word’s Find dialog box.
    2. Check “Use wildcards” (Figure 2).


02-find-and-replace-1024x631-1-8834714Figure 2. Use a regular expression to find strings with variable text. (Click to enlarge.)

    1. In the Find what: field, type the following:


      • In plain English, the above means “Find a one- or two-digit number followed by a comma followed by a one-digit number.” (If you wanted to capture three-digit whole numbers, you would use


      • instead of


      • .)
    1. In the Replace with: field, type the following:

1.2The above means “Keep the first search term as is, insert a period, and keep the second search term as is.” Remember, we don’t want to change any of the numbers!

    1. Click “Replace All” to replace all commas in the numeric strings with periods; the numbers remain the same (Figure 3).


03-after-1024x631-1-3550480Figure 3. All commas have been replaced by periods, while the numbers remain unchanged. (Click to enlarge.)

A simple find-and-replace operation wouldn’t cut it here, because you don’t want to find every comma in the document and replace it with a period—just the commas within numeric strings.

Using regular expressions allows you to limit your operation to only what you need to change—nothing more, nothing less.

Want to try it yourself? Download the table and run the operation!

Converting European number formats in Microsoft Word is a trick that all translators who work into English should know. Of course, if you work from U.S. English into a European language, just tweak your regular expression, replacing each period with a comma.

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“Find and replace text by using regular expressions (Advanced),”
“L’agriculture en 2014 en France et en Europe,” Insee.


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