Modifying Proper Capitalization

Like many people, Kirk copies information into Excel worksheets that originates in other places. The information that Kirk copies typically is all in CAPS, and he wants to convert it to what Excel refers to as “proper case” (only the first letter of each word is capitalized). The problem is, the PROPER worksheet function, which does the conversion, doesn’t pay attention to the words it is capitalizing. Thus, words like a, an, in, and, the, and with are all initial-capped. Kirk doesn’t want those words (and perhaps some others) capitalized.

There are several ways you can approach this problem. One is to use a rather long formula to do the conversion:

" An ";" an ");" In ";" in ");" And ";" and ");
" The ";" the ");" With ";" with ")

Remember, this is all a single formula. It does the case conversion, but then substitutes the desired lowercase words (a, an, in, and, the, with). While this is relatively easy, the utility of the formula becomes limited as you increase the number of words for which substitutions should be done.

Perhaps a better approach is to use a user-defined function macro to do the case conversion for you. The following function checks for some common words that should not have initial caps, making sure they are lowercase.

Function MyProper(str As String)
    Dim vExclude
    Dim i As Integer
    vExclude = Array("a", "an", "in", "and", _
      "the", "with", "is", "at")

    str = StrConv(str, vbProperCase)
    For i = LBound(vExclude) To UBound(vExclude)
        str = Application.WorksheetFunction. _
          Substitute(str, " " & _
          StrConv(vExclude(i), vbProperCase) _
          & " ", " " & vExclude(i) & " ")
    MyProper = str
End Function

Words can be added to the array, and the code automatically senses the additions and checks for those added words. Notice, as well, that the code adds a space before and after each word in the array as it does its checking. This is so that you don’t have the code making changes to partial words (such as “and” being within “stand”) or to words at the beginning of a sentence. You can use the function within a worksheet in this way:


This usage returns the modified text without adjusting the original text in B7.

If you prefer, you can use a function that takes its list of words from a named range in the workbook. The following function uses a range of cells named MyList, with a single word per cell. It presumes that this list is in a worksheet named WordList.

Function ProperSpecial(cX As Range)
' rng = target Cell

    Dim c As Range
    Dim sTemp As String

    sTemp = Application.WorksheetFunction.Proper(cX.Value)
    For Each c In Worksheets("WordList").Range("MyList")
        sTemp = Application.WorksheetFunction.Substitute( _
          sTemp, Application.WorksheetFunction.Proper( _
          " " & c.Value & " "), (" " & c.Value & " "))
    Next c

    ProperSpecial = sTemp
End Function