Changing the Direction of Table Contents

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated January 20, 2024)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


David received some Word tables that were mistakenly created with the table direction as right-to-left. As soon as he changes to left-to-right, all of the columns get reversed—the first column on the left becomes the last column on the right, etc. David is looking for a way to change table direction and affect only the text within the table, not the layout or formatting of the table itself.

When working with tables, it is tempting to select the entire table and then apply some sort of formatting to it. (Yes, text direction can be broadly viewed as "formatting.") However, this may result in unwanted results, such as David is experiencing.

In this situation it is helpful to remember that text direction can be handled on a much more granular level. For instance, you could change text direction for individual cells within the table. It may be best, in this case, to select a table column and then change text direction just for that column. Then, choose the next column and do the same. Continue through all the column, one by one, and change the direction of the text in the columns individually. This should give you the results you desire.

If that doesn't work, then select your table, copy it, and paste it into a different program, such as Excel. Make sure you paste it as text, not as a Word object. Then, make any adjustments in Excel and reverse the process to copy the text from Excel back into the Word document. Format it as a table, once in Word, and you should be good to go.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10177) 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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