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Fixing right-to-left text in Microsoft Word

Release Date: November 7, 2018
Category: Writing Tools
Author: Amanda W., Ph.D.

Many versions of Word allow users to enter text in right-to-left format to accommodate other languages. Most of these change the formatting to left-to-right text direction when users select English for the text language. However, a few versions have bugs in this process and the formatting remains right to left, such as the Arabic versions of Word. If you receive a document originally written in one of these versions, the cursor, text direction, and/or punctuation will behave abnormally.

Example Document

Here, we describe 1) how to fix this problem in a selected segment of text and 2) how to set all new comments to run in the correct direction. The information in this guide was compiled from instructions for the 2010, 2013, and 2016 versions of Word, so these instructions should be accurate for those versions, but might not work with older versions.

Changing right-to-left to left-to-right formatting

To do this, we will add two buttons to our Quick Toolbar. These will stay in Word as long as it is installed on your computer, so you can use them whenever you encounter this problem.

  1. In the Quick Access Toolbar at the top left of the screen (where the save and undo buttons are), click the arrow at the right side and select “More Commands”.
  2. Under "Choose commands from:" select "All Commands."
  3. Find "Left-to-Right Text Direction" in the alphabetical list and click "Add>>".
  4. Find "Ltr Run" and click "Add>>".
  5. Click "OK" to close the window.
  6. You should now have two new buttons in the Quick Access toolbar at the top left of your screen: the Left-to-Right Text Direction button, which looks like an arrow and a paragraph symbol, and the Ltr Run button, which looks like an open, gray, or green circle depending on your version of Word.
  7. Select the text that needs to be fixed, or select all text in the document by pressing Ctrl-A.
  8. Click both the Left-to-Right Text Direction and Ltr Run buttons (it doesn’t matter which you click first).
Text Direction
Ltr Run

Text should now run left to right as we expect in English writing. If the text is suddenly right justified, meaning that it all lines up along the right margin, don’t worry – that means the author of the original document was trying to get around the bug and make the text look normal. Just select the text and click “Left Align” in the “Paragraph” section under the “Home” tab.

Example Comment

Setting comments to default to left-to-right text

If you are providing feedback on this document, you will likely need to add comments to the document. Although the directions above are effective in comments, it can get very annoying to click your two Quick Access buttons every time you need to write a new comment. Luckily, we can set Word to use the correct formatting for all future comments.

  1. If there are no comments, write one and fix it using the directions above.
  2. In a properly formatted comment, click somewhere in the comment text that doesn't have any special formatting (no italic, bold, superscript, etc.).
  3. Go to "Home" tab and click the tiny arrow in the bottom right corner of the “Styles” section.
  4. Click “Options…”
  5. Change “Select how list is sorted:” to “Alphabetical”.
  6. Change "Select styles to show:" to "All styles."
  7. Find "Comment Text" in the list and click it if it’s not already selected.
    • If there are no styles in the list and it’s just a blank white box, click the "Style Inspector" button at the bottom (the one in the middle with a magnifying glass), and the first item in the smaller box that pops up should be “Comment Text.” You’ll follow the next steps within that box.
    • If clicking “Comment Text” changes the comment back to right-to-left formatting, select all the text in that comment and click your two new Quick Access buttons again.
  8. Hover your mouse over "Comment Text" and click the drop-down arrow that appears.
  9. Click "Update Comment Text to Match Selection."
  10. Close all open style boxes.

Try adding new comments; the text should run left to right. This will save a bit of time and a lot of frustration. It will need to be done for each document in which you encounter this issue, but once you’ve done it, that style information should stay with the document even if you send it to someone else.

Keywords: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office, Text Direction, Editing, Comments

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