How to change text direction in a comment balloon in Word

RTL commentThe problem:

Documents created in a country that uses a right-to-left language, like Israel, will display text within comment balloons as right-to-left, even if the document language and the proofing language are both set to default to English.  For example: if you open a comment box, the cursor appears on the righthand side, and your typing comes out like this: “:gnidrow siht tseggus I.”

Two solutions:

I.  Switch to Open Office Writer.  There are many reasons to like this free program, and this is one of them.  I don’t have any trouble with comment balloon text direction in Israeli docs when I edit them in Open Office.  Remember, with Open Office you can still save your work as a Word doc or export it as a PDF.  However, sometimes the formatting changes, especially in tables.  I have also had occasional trouble scrolling from one page to another in docs from Israel when I use Open Office.  When this happens, I can free the scrolling by hitting Enter and then backspacing to remove the break.  I have no idea why this works.

II.  In MS Word, the following works for me.  Note:  I am using the current subscription version, which is Word 2013, on a Windows 8 computer.  These directions may not apply to other versions.

  1. Go to the Quick Access toolbar at the very top of the screen (this is the one with the Save and Undo buttons).  Click the tiny down arrow at the righthand side of the toolbar and select More Commands.
  2. Under the dropdown entitled Choose Commands From, select All Commands.
  3. Scroll down to find Left-to-Right Text Direction.  Select it and click Add.
  4. Scroll down a little further to find Ltr Run.  Select it and click Add.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Now you have two new icons in your Quick Access toolbar:  Left-to-Right Text Direction, which looks like a tiny paragraph symbol with an arrow next to it; and Ltr Run, which is a gray circle.
  7. Open a new comment balloon (hint: Ctrl-Alt-M is the keyboard shortcut).  If your document originated in Israel, your cursor will probably be on the righthand side.
  8. Click the Left-to-Right Text Direction icon in your toolbar.  This moves the cursor to the left, but if you start typing, your words will still be backwards.
  9. Now click the Ltr Run icon.  Your words will now be in the correct direction.
  10. Side note:  You can use only the Ltr Run command if you wish; your typing will be in the correct direction.  However, the cursor will remain stationary on the righthand side of the comment box, and the words will scroll out of its left side in a right-to-left direction.  I find this distracting, so I like to use both commands together.

For more information, including another workaround using the Style Inspector command cascade (which also works in Word 2013 but takes longer than using toolbar icons), please see Liz Dexter’s excellent article on her LibroEditing blog:

What to do if my comment boxes are running right to left

That is where I found the solution I wrote above; I added a minor tweak for my version of Word.

My next step might be to make a macro so I’ll have a keyboard shortcut to use, but I’m pretty happy just finding something that will work, and clicking two icons isn’t a problem for me.

Has anyone found another solution?


© Laurie Anne Walden, 2014.


10 thoughts on “How to change text direction in a comment balloon in Word

  1. Hi Laurie – thanks for stating your source and linking to my article – much appreciated!

    1. You’re welcome, Liz, and thank YOU! Nothing had worked for me until I found your article and tried your solution. It was a big relief!

  2. I just shared this because I needed it a few years ago but you hadn’t written it yet. To someone who finds this information at just the right time, it’ll be a lifesaver.

  3. Andy

    I found this very helpful. Thank you

    1. I’m glad it helped!

  4. Renee Atlas

    Can someone walk me through Word 2011 on my Mac; it may not have the ability to change the direction, but I could swear my brilliant niece who is now far away, helped me with this last year.

    1. I don’t use a Mac, but maybe the Microsoft help page for Word for Mac will have an answer for you.

  5. Laza

    This solution was helpful. But is there a way to fix the document in such a way that this problem does not happen when I share the document with someone?

    1. I’m not sure of the answer. Maybe one of the Microsoft support articles can help, like this one on using right-to-left languages:

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