Getting Rid of Right-to-Left Text Entry in a MS Word Doc
October 21, 2015 11:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I eradicate Hebrew right-to-left text editing from a Word document?

I am editing a 150-page document for a client. The document was created with no styles, so my current task is to create and apply styles throughout the document.

Right now some text in the document (headers, footers, TOC, comments) are using right-to-left text entry, meaning when you type, the text gets added to the left.

Not only is this a pain to edit, it's causing those features to behave oddly (for instance, I cannot for the life of me get the TOC to display page numbers on the right with a dot leader, or the footer to include a running head followed by a page number on the right.)

Apparently at some point the author edited the document on her Israeli boyfriend's computer, and so somewhere something got set to Hebrew.

I have tried selecting all text in the document and formatting it as English. I have also tried searching the document for Hebrew formatting. I have scrolled through the list of styles looking for one with Hebrew as an attribute. No luck.

How on earth do I get rid of Hebrew-style text entry in this document?

(I'm using Word for Mac 15.15 by the way. No idea what version of Word the document was created with.)
posted by ottereroticist to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Nuke it from orbit, only way to be sure.

(select-all, copy/paste into text wrangler, copy / paste into a clean word doc)
posted by Oktober at 12:07 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Have you done work you can't bear to throw away? If not, do this: Copy the entire text into a text editor like Text Wrangler, then copy and paste it back into Word. This will nuke all styling, and should give you a clean slate.

I would also start working from a fresh Word doc, to avoid any gremlins lurking in the old one. Redoing the headers and footers can't be that bad, and you should let Word generate the TOC itself anyhow. The comments will be a problem.
posted by adamrice at 12:08 PM on October 21, 2015

This sounds like an Options issue. Go to "File" or "Main Menu" (or w/e), click Options, and if you see a window with options along the left with names like "General" and "Proofing," you're in the right place.

Which option you should actually change is guesswork AFAIK, but you should look at the Language subscreen. That seems a likely possibility to me.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:42 PM on October 21, 2015

Huh, I was going to ask if you'd tried selecting everything and then formatting it to Left-to-Right alignment (as opposed to English language or Left alignment). However, apparently Office for Mac doesn't offer RTL/LTR alignment options yet, which is crazy.

If copy/pasting or other methods don't work for you, see if you can edit the file on someone's Windows computer (or maybe try LibreOffice or some other Word-compatible editor on your Mac). If you're able to do that, there should be a paragraph formatting option specifically for text direction. The icon usually looks like a paragraph symbol (a capital letter P) with some kind of arrow in the immediate vicinity pointing in the relevant direction. The option should also be available in the paragraph formatting dialog (at least, it was in older versions of word).

Also, I think that Word requires you to apply formatting separately to different parts of the document (main text, comments, headers, etc.) so if you do go that route make sure to format everything.
posted by trig at 1:02 PM on October 21, 2015

Copy everything to a plain text editor (notepad.exe). Then search and replace for LTR and RTL characters (you can easily copy them from here). Delete your original word document and paste in the new text (this will also get rid of any formatting, if your document is complex).
posted by dilaudid at 2:46 PM on October 21, 2015

All of these answers are correct, to some degree. If you had an install of winword handy it would be easy - but you don't, so you need to discard all formatting and try again.

LibreOffice has RTL support, so you could move it there, either in native docx format or RTF. But why risk it? Here comes that "nuke it from orbit" joke again...
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 2:53 PM on October 21, 2015

I sometimes run into this when editing others' documents as well. The best solution that I have found is to go through all of the styles and manually intentionally set each of them to English, even if none of them say Hebrew (or Arabic). It is obviously a bug in Word, and not one they are likely to fix. If that doesn't work, nuking the formatting will, but that is a big sacrifice sometimes.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:12 PM on October 21, 2015

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