Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Understanding Default DATE Field Formatting.

Understanding Default DATE Field Formatting

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 7, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016


When you use a DATE field in Word, the program follows a very logical series of steps to determine how that date should be displayed. First, if you have specified a date format by using the \@ switch with the field, that format is used.

If there is no format switch used, meaning the field is simply { DATE }, then Word looks for the existence of a date formatting specification in the Registry. This specification is created (or changed) when you use the Default button from the Insert Date and Time dialog box. Once the dialog box is displayed (display the Insert tab of the ribbon and then click the Date and Time tool), click on Default. This creates or changes the Registry setting.

If the Registry specification is not set on your system, then Word determines the DATE field display format from the regional date settings. You can determine which format this is by starting the Control Panel, double-clicking on Regional Settings, and then choosing the Date tab. The Short Date Style is the format used.

There have been reports that Word is not completely consistent in how it displays text-related date fields. If you include a \@ switch format string with the DATE field, and that format calls for the display of full or partial month or day names (such as Tuesday or September), then the language used for the names is dependent on the language assigned to the paragraph in which the DATE field is being inserted. If you don't include the \@ switch format string, and you have the default date specification set up on your system, then the month or day names always appear in English, regardless of what language you have specified for your paragraph or for your Control Panel regional settings.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11223) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding Default DATE Field Formatting.

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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