European Number Format Conversion in MS Word

European number format is different than U.S. format. Commas are used in place of decimal points. (And decimal points are used as commas.)

Confused? Don’t be. Converting any string in European number format in Microsoft Word is as simple as using a shortcut.

Watch the video below or skip right to the steps.

Here’s what we need to do:

  • evaluate the numeric strings in the document
  • use a regular expression in Word’s Find/Replace feature to find all instances of those strings
  • replace those strings
  • check that the operation has done what we wanted it to

Changing data in European number format is something that you can—and should—automate.

In Figure 1, we have a table from a French source document. The data in the table is in European number format.

Here, it’s [whole number] [comma] [tenths place value]. For example, 74,3 to a Frenchman is 74.3 to an American.

european number format conversion (before)

Figure 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?

Converting numbers from European to U.S. format (or the reverse) is a task that can—and should—be automated. If you have hundreds (or even dozens) of instances in your document, then you’ll save yourself a lot of time by getting your software to work for you.

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. 

European Number Format Conversion: Steps

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

european number format conversion (find and replace)

Figure 2. Use a regular expression to find strings with variable text. (Click to enlarge.)

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

([0-9]{1,2}),([0-9]{1})

In plain English, the above means “Find a one- or two-digit number followed by a comma followed by a one-digit number.” Note: If you want to capture three-digit whole numbers, use {1,3} instead of {1,2}.

4. In the Replace with: field, type the following:

\1.\2

The 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!

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

european number format conversion (after)

Figure 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. This is 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.

Final Word

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 American English into a European language, just do the opposite. Replace each period with a comma in your regular expression.

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

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Need another tip? Learn how to convert European date format to US format.