If I am coding and let's say I decide that for every word I print out, I want to first "change" the format of the words so that they all begin with capital letters. Or, if I want to change the format of a phrase so that there is only a single space between words. Imagine any kind of arbitrary format-changing that doesn't change the data, but does change how it is stored or displayed.

What is the word that describes what I am doing to these words or phrases?

  • 5
    Standardise? Regularise? Normalise? Commented May 10, 2012 at 20:25
  • To echo FF's suggestions, one definition of standardize is To cause to conform to a standard, which sounds pretty spot on. For what it's worth, Wordnik only lists one synonym for standardize, and that's regularize. (@FF: sorry about the zeds; that's just how we spell 'em over here.)
    – J.R.
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 20:48
  • Of course standardise or standardize depends on your location.
    – GEdgar
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 21:10
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Not an Oxford man, I see.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 23:06
  • @tchrist: Apparently not! Your comment prompted me to check them out, and I was somewhat mortified to find standardise relegated to "also" status under their entry for standardize. I'm fine with dialog, catalog, analog, etc., but there are limits! (though I graciously accept J.R.'s apologies for unavoidably clunky spelling! :) Commented May 11, 2012 at 0:05

5 Answers 5


The word "Format" would work for that, I believe.

"I will format all the strings!"

  • +1 Especially in a coding context, format is exactly it.
    – dj18
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 21:07
  • format is probably the best fit. Related to the specification in the question (as a step in the process) parse (reparse).
    – horatio
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 21:46
  • The correct answer is reformat, in OP's case Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 13:54
  • @Denis That implies wiping data, probably from a hard disk.
    – SuperDisk
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 21:14

Previously-suggested words like standardize and normalize are good, but also consider canonicalize, which means (in computing) "to convert data into canonical form". (Note that previously-suggested format has a slight advantage; some of its senses agree better with the conditions of your question, ie, presenting unchanged data in a different display format.)

  • All those are good. I rather like “render into standard/normal/canonical form” myself. One certainly speaks of normalization or canonicalization routines. If you’re a programmer, consider Unicode’s Normalization Form C, which is formed by canonical decomposition followed by composition composition, in that order. Or how you can get the canonical path using the realpath function from libc. As words go, I find canonize somewhat less unwieldy than canonicalize, although I recognize that that might risk invoking unwanted ecclesiastical — or contrapuntal — connotations in some readers.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 23:04
  • @tchrist, I agree, canonicalize is clumsy, canonicalization still more so. I think they are suffered only because the phrase "canonical form" is so ... canonical. Commented May 10, 2012 at 23:49
  • In the software business, the correct answer actually is reformat. Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 13:59

Well, if the data is of variable quality and you are pulling the edge cases back into conformity, I would say you are normalizing, standardizing, or cleaning it.

If, instead, you are doing something novel to text that wasn't necessarily aberrant in the first place, such as making everything have an initial capital, that would be modifying, preparing, or processing it.

I mention both cases because the title of your question feels like you're talking about the first case, but your examples feel more like the second.

  • At least you aren’t comformatizing it. 🐷
    – tchrist
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 0:18
  • Yeah, conformalization is overrated...
    – Jim
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 7:15

In a software development context, the correct answers are:

  • "reformat", if you're merely changing spaces and case, and adding comments here and there.
  • "refactor", if you're also moving code around, e.g. shifting bits and pieces in subfunctions, etc.

It's "re-" in both cases because the code already exists. You "format" your code when you write it, and "reformat" existing code when you maintain it.


Rectify. Which is to imply previous behavior was incorrect.

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