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:

=SUBSTITUTE(SUBSTITUTE(SUBSTITUTE(PROPER(A1)," The ",
" 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 = (LBound(vaArray)+1) 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 = LBound(vaArray) 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:

=Title(A1)

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

http://dmcritchie.mvps.org/excel/proper.htm