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Making PROPER Skip Certain Words

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Making PROPER Skip Certain Words.

Terry uses the PROPER worksheet function all the time to change the case of text in his worksheets. He wonders if there is a way to instruct the function to ignore certain words, so that they aren't started with a capital letter. It is not unusual for him to have to go back after using PROPER and change words like "the" or "an" to all lowercase. If PROPER could skip changing such words automatically, it would be a big help.

One way to approach this is to use the SUBSTITUTE worksheet function in conjunction with the PROPER function. For instance, if you wanted to find instances of the word "The" with "the", you could use the following:

=SUBSTITUTE(PROPER(A1)," The "," the ")

Note the inclusion of the space before and after what you are searching for and what you are replacing. This insures that only full words are modified. It also makes sure that no changes are made at the beginning of the cell value or at the end.

If you wanted to search for other words that needed replacing, you can simply increase the number of instances of SUBSTITUTE in the formula:

" the ")," An "," an ")," And "," and ")

This can obviously get a bit awkward if you have a lot of words you want to exclude from being modified. In that case you'll need to resort to using a macro. The following macro, written as a user-defined function, can be used to convert all words in a cell to initial caps (just like PROPER), but make sure that certain defined words are lowercase.

Function Title(ByVal ref As Range) As String
    Dim vaArray As Variant
    Dim c As String
    Dim i As Integer
    Dim J As Integer
    Dim vaLCase As Variant
    Dim str As String

    ' Array contains terms that should be lower case
    vaLCase = Array("a", "an", "and", "in", "is", _
      "of", "or", "the", "to", "with")

    c = StrConv(ref, 3)
    'split the words into an array
    vaArray = Split(c, " ")
    For i = 2 To UBound(vaArray)
        For J = LBound(vaLCase) To UBound(vaLCase)
            ' compare each word in the cell against the
            ' list of words to remain lowercase. If the
            ' Upper versions match then replace the
            ' cell word with the lowercase version.
            If UCase(vaArray(i)) = UCase(vaLCase(J)) Then
                vaArray(i) = vaLCase(J)
            End If
        Next J
    Next i

  ' rebuild the sentence
    str = ""
    For i = 1 To UBound(vaArray)
        str = str & " " & vaArray(i)
    Next i

    Title = Trim(str)
End Function

To use the macro, all you need to do is use the following in your worksheet:


If you get an error when you try to run this macro, chances are good that you are using Excel 97. The Split function was not added until Excel 2000, so Excel 97 users will get an error. If you do, then add the following macro which emulates what the Split function does.

Function Split(Raw As String, Delim As String) As Variant
    Dim vAry() As String
    Dim sTemp As String
    Dim J As Integer
    Dim Indx As Integer

    Indx = 0
    sTemp = Raw
    J = InStr(sTemp, Delim)
    While J > 0
        Indx = Indx + 1
        ReDim Preserve vAry(1 To Indx)
        vAry(Indx) = Trim(Left(sTemp, J))
        sTemp = Trim(Mid(sTemp, J, Len(sTemp)))
        J = InStr(sTemp, Delim)
    Indx = Indx + 1
    ReDim Preserve vAry(1 To Indx)
    vAry(Indx) = Trim(sTemp)
    Split = vAry()
End Function

You can also find an additional approach on accomplishing the desired conversion at this site:


ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10559) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Making PROPER Skip Certain Words.

Related Tips:

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!


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Comments for this tip:

Paul Taylor    18 Jul 2012, 06:40
The function drops the first word from the sentence because the vaArray should start at 0

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