When Word Goes Wacky Fixing mysterious format problems

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    Fox photo by Jiri Sifalda

    I’ll put the answer at the beginning to save the reader some time:

    If your Microsoft Word document has some strange format problems that you cannot fix, try saving it as a .htm document. Then open the .htm file in a text editor (like Notepad or an editor used for computer programs) and look carefully at Word’s formatting codes. Many times you can find the code that is making the problem and delete or change it in the htm file. Save your changes in the htm file. After that, open the htm file in Word. Save it as a .doc file. Problem solved.

    Here’s an example. I usually do document translation by making a draft that has two columns, the source language in the left column and the target language (always English for my translations) in the right column.

    One document was being translated from French to English, but the author is in Israel and (I assume) has Microsoft Word set up for Hebrew. All kinds of weird things were happening with the text. If you tried to left-align a paragraph, it would right align. When trying to highlight a word or phrase with the mouse or using the shift-arrow keys, I would have to move across the text in the opposite direction from what I would normally do. For instance, if I wanted to highlight the word ‘cat’ I would have to start highlighting from the end at ‘t’ and shift-right-arrow over to ‘c.’

    I saved the .doc file as a .htm, opened it in a text editor, and discovered there were ‘rtl’ style codes all over the document. As in ‘right-to-left’ (for Hebrew). So I globally substituted the rtl text with ltr. Voila. Fixed.

    Here is an example of the html text before changes. Note the line of code that says direction:rtl;

    /* Style Definitions */
    p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal


    font-family:”Times New Roman”;}

    And after editing,  the line in question now has:



    Editing a .doc file saved as an htm file has helped me to solve other problems with line-spacing and table formatting as well

    E.S. Dempsey

    About E.S. Dempsey

    Literary and short business/science/legal translations from most European languages, also Japanese. Short book translations via Babelcube. Translations for Trommons.org (pro bono). Target=English

    8 thoughts on “When Word Goes Wacky

    1. Great trick! I rarely work with Word documents anymore as most of the time I work on formats specific for video game localization, but I’ll bookmark it in case I ever encounter similar problems. 🙂

      1. If you ever have a few minutes to make a blog post on formatting tips specific to video game translation, or if not “formatting” then any general tips that apply to translating video games, I think a lot of people would like to read that.

      1. Thanks. I discovered the ‘save as .html’ thing when I was trying to make the translations I did on Babelcube look good in epub format. Babelcube is a site where people who have self-published a book (like, on Amazon) want it translated. So I was discovering that whatever less than professional formatting they had done in the original source was totally messed up in my English translation. Anyway, it’s a good thing to know.

    2. Here’s another thing about saving as HTML, which I learned from a different article here on The Open Mic in January 2016:

      Perhaps you are translating a document that has image art with text in it, or the figure caption is part of the jpeg.

      When you save a Word document as an htm file, it makes a separate “images” folder of all the art. You can then run the image files that have text to be translated through an OCR reader online (see the Five Essential Tools post) and from there you can put the text into your CAT software.

      It’s quite nice if you have several images to be translated in your original source document. Because otherwise you are going piece by piece, copying images into separate files before sending them through the OCR.

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