Changing the Format for a Date Inserted Using the Keyboard Shortcut

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 5, 2016)


The shortcut Stephen uses to insert today's date in a document is Alt+Shift+D. When he does this, Word inserts the date in the m/d/yyyy format. In Stephen's country, the date should be entered as d/m/yyyy, which is the way that it is set in Windows' regional settings. Stephen wonders how to make d/m/yyyy the default date format when using Alt+Shift+D.

Unraveling how Word works with dates—particularly for "automatic" functions such as the shortcut—can be frustrating. There are times that one feels they have stepped through the looking glass and everything is topsy turvy. This is particularly true if a system is set up for multiple languages. I have no idea if Stephen's system is set up for multiple languages, but it very well could be since the dates are being inserted according to the norms of a language other than his own.

Try these steps:

  1. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Date and Time tool, in the Text group. Word displays Date and Time dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Language drop-down list reflects the language you are using most of the time.
  4. In the list of available formats, choose the format that you want (the one that shows up as an example of d/m/yyyy).
  5. Click Set As Default
  6. Click OK.

The date is inserted in your document, but because you clicked Set As Default (step 5), you told Word that you want the selected format to be used whenever you use the Alt+Shift+D shortcut. There is one caveat to this, however. If you are using a system where multiple languages are installed, the behavior of Alt+Shift+D is affected by the language Word believes you are typing at the time you invoke the shortcut key.

The solution is to again display the Date and Time dialog box (follow the above steps), this time specifying a different language in the Language drop-down (step 3), and again setting a default date and time format. You should do this for each language you have installed on your system.

Finally, you should be aware that when you use Alt+Shift+D, what is happening is that Word does not actually insert the date. What it inserts is a DATE field, with a format switch that reflects whatever format you specified when you clicked on Set As Default. You can verify this by following these steps:

  1. Create a short paragraph of text that is formatted in the language you are interested in.
  2. Position the insertion point in the middle of the paragraph.
  3. Press Alt+Shift+D. Word inserts the date.
  4. Click once in the middle of the date just entered.
  5. Press Shift+F9. Word replaces the date (which is the result of a field code) with the DATE field code.

When looking at the DATE field code, it should look similar to this:

{ DATE \@ "d/M/yyyy" }

The format switch, shown in quote marks, should reflect whatever default you set in the Date and Time dialog box for the language you are using in the current paragraph. (You can, if you desire, edit the format switch in any way desired.) When you are done viewing or editing the field code, as long as the insertion point is still within the field, you can again press Shift+F9 to switch back to the results of the field code.

As I mentioned, unraveling how Word works with dates can be frustrating. If you want another take on the whole mess, you may find this tip informative, as well:

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1425) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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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What is 7 + 4?

2016-11-05 17:45:52


Could you please touch on how to insert a date in Word for Mac. I experimented and found that I can do with the key combination Ctrl + Shift + D. I get the date (November 5, 2016), but the date is underlined. I used Alt [or Option] + F9 to see the code, but I don't see anything in the switch that drives the underline format.


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