Making Language Changes Apply to Text in Footnotes and Text Boxes

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated January 7, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Whenever Kathleen changes the language in a document, the change doesn't apply to the text in footnotes and text boxes. She wonders how she can change the language of a document so that the language for the entire document—including footnotes and text boxes—is changed.

Kathleen doesn't specify how she is trying to change the language used in a document, but there are two general ways that most people go about this. One way is to follow these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+A to select the entire document.
  2. Display the Review tab of the ribbon.
  3. If you are using Word 2007, click the Set Language tool in the Proofing group. If you are using Word 2010 or a later version, click the Language tool in the Language group and then choose Set Proofing Language. Either way, Word displays the Language dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Language dialog box.

  5. Select the language you want used in the document.
  6. Click on OK.

This approach works fine if you have a simple document, but it is not the best method. The reason is because it doesn't affect many parts of the document, such as headers, footers, footnotes, endnotes, and miscellaneous text (like the text in text boxes).

The best approach involves changing the style definitions used in the document. This is a better approach because Word always (whether you specifically tell it to or not) applies styles to the various pieces and parts of text used in the document. If you change the definition of the style, then any text that uses that style is affected automatically. Here are the general steps to following in specifying a language for a particular style:

  1. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group. Word displays the Styles task pane.
  3. In the list of styles shown, hover the mouse pointer over the name of the style you want to alter. A drop-down arrow should appear at the right side of the style name.
  4. Click the drop-down arrow and choose Modify. Word displays the Modify Style dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Modify Style dialog box.

  6. Click on Format and select Language from the pull-down list. Word displays the Language dialog box.
  7. Select the language you want used by any text formatted with that style.
  8. Click on OK.
  9. Click on OK to close the Modify Style dialog box.
  10. To change other styles, repeat steps 3 through 8.
  11. When you are done, click on Close.

Which styles should you change? The simple answer is any that may be used in your document. In many documents you may be able to get away with only changing the Normal style in step 3. This works because most (if not all) of the other defined styles are based on the Normal style, thus all changes you make to it cascade to other styles based on it. If this is not the case in your document, then you simply need to make sure that, in step 3, you choose to change the Footnote Text style (to change the language for the text of your footnotes) and any styles that may be used in the text boxes.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10048) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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