Spell Checking In Microsoft Word

One of the most used and useful features of Microsoft Word is its ability to check your documents for both spelling mistakes and grammar inaccuracies.

The checking can be performed ‘live’ as you type in your document, or you can choose to switch this off and have the document checked at a time of your choice. (We prefer the ‘live’ option, as correcting afterwards can sometimes lead to slight layout changes within a document, and it’s also easy to forget to spellcheck!)

Occasionally Word will encounter a word that it doesn’t recognise, and flag it up as a spelling mistake, if this happens you have the ability to add this word to the dictionary for future reference. Also, if you write documents that contain certain words that are not in general everyday use, maybe engineering documents, legal documents or medical documents, it’s possible to create your own ‘custom’ dictionary that contains these words.


Checking your documents

No matter how you choose to check your document, when Word encounters what it believes to be a mis-spelling it will underline it with a squiggly red line similar to the example below. A squiggly green line indicates that Word believes that the grammar is incorrect. Spelling warnings tend to affect just one Word at a time, but grammar warnings tend to highlight whole sentences.


To make changes to the word, its simply a matter of right clicking on the the word itself, getting the context menu, and making your choice. In the example on the right, Microsoft Word only offers one alternative spelling, in some cases it may offer more than one alternative based on its interpretation of what it thinks you wanted. There are also some other useful options that you may want to investigate when you’re a little more familiar with spellchecking.

  • Ignore All – click this if you wish to ignore all occurrences of this word that are spelled this way.
  • Add to Dictionary – clicking this will add a correctly spelt word to the MS Office built in dictionary.
  • AutoCorrect – Brings up the AutoCorrect options dialog which allows you add this correction to the AutoCorrect feature
  • Language – If you have more than one regional dictionary installed, this option allows you to choose which one to use.


Spelling options

Now that we know how to correct any errors we may find, it’s time we looked at the spelling options dialog which will allow us to customise the way in which the spelling tool works. To access the spelling options, select Tools from the main Word menu, then Options and select the Spelling and Grammar tab to see the screen below. (Note this screen shot is from Word 2003, other versions may be laid out slightly differently)


Most of the tick box options in the dialog are fairly self explanatory, but the two that deserve special mention are:

  • Check spelling as you type – this toggles between ‘live’ spell checking, and ‘on demand’ spell checking.
  • Ignore words in UPPERCASE – No one’s really too sure why this option is here, a word in upper case should still be spelt correctly.


One of the most useful features to get yourself acquainted with is the ‘Custom Dictionaries’ function, clicking this button will reveal the Custom Dictionaries dialog, where you can Create, Remove, Modify, and Add any custom dictionaries that you need.

The custom dictionaries hold all the words that you have added to the dictionary manually, maybe you have used a technical word that isn’t recognised or you have unusual place names that you repeatedly type and you want that adding to the dictionary.

Most of the options here are also quite self explanatory, and as you can see it is possible to have more than one custom dictionary, which can be quite useful if you need to compose specialist documents on different subjects.