How to Fix Corrupted Character Encoding (Corrupted Text) in Microsoft Word

Updated on December 6, 2018
Wikimedia Foundation [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Foundation [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

What Is Text Character Corruption?

People who work extensively with Plain Text files, suffixed with the .TXT file extension, will occasionally come across documents showing garbled text instead of what is expected. This phenomenon frequently happens when the corrupted text document is written in a foreign language which does not use the Latin alphabet but can happen for all files if there are inconsistencies in the settings used when the file was saved.

Character corruption happens when the save file uses a different type of default file encoding from the end user's program. Most computer programs use UTF-8 encoding by default but foreign characters normally have one or multiple language-specific encoding systems as well. Asian languages, for example, use a 16-bit encoding system; hence when the document is opened on a machine that uses an 8-bit system (which UTF-8 is), the text will be replaced with garbled symbols.

Rest assured however the corrupted text is not lost. There are many ways to fix corrupt character encoding, including using specialised software made for this exact scenario. However, if you only wish to fix one or two documents, downloading and installing new software can be a hassle. Here I will show you how to fix these corrupted text files in Microsoft Word, which is likely already installed for computers running the Windows operating system.

Fixing Corrupted Text in Microsoft Word

Source

If you use a Windows machine, it is likely that you will already have Microsoft Word installed. Microsoft Word has a built-in character encoding converter which can be used to save the file in the desired encoding.

This fix will work with Microsoft Word 2003 and up.

Step 1: Open Up the Document in Microsoft Word

Step 1: Open the document in Microsoft Word
Step 1: Open the document in Microsoft Word

Windows will open plain text files (.txt extension) using the Notepad program by default. To open the corrupt document in Microsoft Word:

1. Right click on the document

2. Select "Open with"

3. Choose "Word"

Step 2: Convert Files from Encoded Text

Step 2: File Conversion Dialogue Box in Microsoft Word 2016
Step 2: File Conversion Dialogue Box in Microsoft Word 2016

The Convert File dialogue box should open automatically when it detects a file with corrupted encoding. Choose "Encoded Text" from the list of options and press "Ok."

If the dialogue box did not appear, it will need to be manually triggered. Go to "File" -> "Options" -> "Advanced" and scroll down until the "General" section is reached. In the "General" section, check the box that says "Confirm file format conversion on open." Exit Word, and reopen the corrupt document again, and the dialogue box will appear.

Step 3: Choosing the Correct Encoding

Using the "Auto select" Feature to Determine Encoding
Using the "Auto select" Feature to Determine Encoding
Choosing a Specific Encoding from List
Choosing a Specific Encoding from List

The encoding selection dialogue box should automatically suggest a correct encoding. If it does not, you can manually select from the list of encoding.

Choose "Auto-Select" if you are unsure of the source encoding, or choose from the list if you know the language the file is in. You will be able to check if the corrupted file is corrected from the preview window.

Final Step: Saving the Document as a Readable Plain Text File

Saving Corrected document as Plain Text
Saving Corrected document as Plain Text
Choosing a Final File Format
Choosing a Final File Format

The recovered text can now be read in Microsoft word, but may still show up as corrupted in plain text processing software as many are not written to process specialised character encoding. To prevent this, it is best to save the document in a common text encoding, such as UTF-8 or UTF-16.

To do this, click on the "File" tab in the top left corner of your document, and choose "save as" from the list. Choose which folder to save to, and choose "Plain Text Document " as the file format. Click "Save."

A new "File conversion" dialogue box will open up. From the list, choose an encoding for the final document. The preview box will highlight words which will not be saved correctly in red, so take care to choose an encoding which compliments the document. When in doubt, it is best to use a Unicode format as the encoding, as it is designed to accommodate all the world's writing system.

Finally, click "Ok" to save your corrected document.

Fixed!

Corrupted Text is Now Readable
Corrupted Text is Now Readable

Your document should now display correctly in your chosen plain text processing software, such as Notepad.

© 2018 Ivy Gao

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