Changing European Dates to US Dates

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 7, 2019)

1

Alan translates documents from languages that use the European date format (dd/mm/yyyy). Often these documents have many, many dates throughout them. It is very time consuming for him to change these dates into the US format (mm/dd/yyyy). Alan is wondering if there is a trick he can use to automate the change.

One way you can handle this is to use wildcards in Find and Replace. Here's how to set it up:

  1. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the More button, if it is visible. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. Select the Use Wildcards check box.
  5. In the Find What box, enter this: ([0-9]{2})/([0-9]{2})/([0-9]{4})
  6. In the Replace With box, enter this: \2/\1/\3 (See Figure 2.)
  7. Figure 2. All ready to replace.

  8. Click Replace All.

The key to how this works is in the search pattern used in step 4. This finds all instances of two digits, followed by a slash, followed by two digits, followed by a slash, and followed by four digits. Each grouping of digits (2, 2, and 4) is treated as a unit, and the "replace with" pattern (step 5) switches the first and second units.

This approach only works with date patterns that match what Alan specified: dd/mm/yyyy. If there are some dates that use single digits for the day or month or dates that use only two digits for the year, it won't work. You could modify the search pattern (step 4) to find dates that use either one or two digits for the day or month in this manner:

([0-9]{1,2})/([0-9]{1,2})/([0-9]{4})

Further, if your date format uses dashes between parts (dd-mm-yyyy), then you would need to modify the search pattern again:

([0-9]{1,2})-([0-9]{1,2})-([0-9]{4})

You would also need to modify the "replace with" pattern, accordingly, changing out slashes for dashes:

\2-\1-\3

Finally, if you use the Find and Replace method described here, you'll want to run it only once. If you run it twice, you will end up switching the day and month positions again.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13671) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

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 4 - 3?

2019-09-09 13:04:07

David Gray

Those find and replace formulas look like Perl compatible regular expressions and substitutions. I wasn't aware that Word supports regular expressions. That opens the door to some very powerful find and replace operations.


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