Software

Five ways to skip content when checking a Word document for spelling errors

Word's Spelling & Grammar feature is a great tool unless it stops at content that isn't misspelled. If that happens too often, use one of these five methods to skip the terms that are spelled correctly.

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Word's Spelling & Grammar feature relies on a large internal list of words stored in a specialized data file. If a word isn't in that file—a dictionary file—Word stops and highlights the word as misspelled. You get to decide what to do at that point. Most users discover this feature early on and encounter no problems, but it can become a bit overbearing and tedious if Word stops too often or flags words that aren't misspelled. In this article, I'll show you five ways to skip content while checking a document for spelling errors. In addition, I'll offer two troubleshooting tips for when the feature doesn't work as you expect.

I'm using Word 2016 desktop on a Windows 10 64-bit system but these methods will work in older versions of Word and other Office applications. Some of these methods aren't available in 365's browser version and I'll note those as necessary. There's no downloadable demonstration file for this article; you won't need one.

1: Add to the dictionary

Word's Spelling & Grammar feature uses a main dictionary that's adequate for most of us but it can't read your mind. In a nutshell, if the word's in the dictionary, all is well with the world. If a word isn't in the dictionary, the feature highlights the word and stops, awaiting instructions from you. The word might be valid for your purposes, but Word doesn't know that. When this happens, there are two ways to go:

  • Add the word to the main dictionary by clicking Add in the Spelling task pane (Figure A).
  • Create a custom dictionary and add the word there. Read How to add a custom dictionary in Word for more information on creating and maintaining a custom dictionary.

Figure A

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Add a term to the dictionary.

You can't add words to the dictionary while editing a document in 365's browser version.

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2: Skip styled content

Adding a few new terms to the dictionary will avoid needless stops, but adding a lot of terms would be tedious. You might run into this situation when working with scientific or technical content. When those terms are styled differently from the rest of the document, you're in luck. You can tell Word to skip all content that's formatted with a specific style as follows:

  1. On the Home tab, click the Styles dialog launcher.
  2. In the Styles task pane, select the style you want to skip.
  3. From the dropdown, choose Modify.
  4. In the resulting dialog, choose Language from the Format dropdown (Figure B).
  5. Check the Do Not Check Spelling Or Grammar option (Figure C).
  6. Click OK twice and close the Styles task pane.

Figure B

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Open the Language options.

Figure C

2017015c.jpg
If you enable this option, Word will skip text formatted with the specified style when it checks for spelling errors.

All subsequent checks will skip text with the specified style applied. It's important to recognize that skipping the styled content doesn't mean everything using that style is actually spelled correctly. I recommend that you use this method only for text that you'll never want to evaluate when checking for spelling errors.

You can't modify a document's style in 365's browser version, so you can't set this option when editing a document there. However, the browser version will skip styled text previously set using the desktop version.

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3: Skip selected content

Avoiding a style is a permanent solution, at least until you disable the setting discussed in #2. Sometimes content won't have a special style or you might want to skip a section on the fly. When this is the case, you can use the setting from the previous technique using selected text instead of a style.

There's a quick route via the Status bar if the Language indicator is visible: Click the indicator and choose Language. This indicator isn't visible, even if enabled, unless you have more than one language installed. If this isn't the case, you can do the following:

  1. Select the text you want to skip—it can be a paragraph or several pages.
  2. Click the Review tab.
  3. Click Language in the Language group and choose Set Proofing Language as shown in Figure D.
  4. Check the Do Not Check Spelling Or Grammar option and click OK.

Figure D

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Use this Language option.

You must remember to disable this option when you're ready for Word to check that section for spelling errors. Unlike #2, this option allows you to specify the content directly rather than relying on a style. I recommend that you use it only for text that you'll never want to include in a spell check—or unmark the text as soon as you run the spell check.

You can use this method in 365's browser method, but the Do Not Check Spelling Or Grammar option is available only by right-clicking the selected text and the choosing Set Proofing Language from the resulting submenu. In addition, the browser version will skip text previously marked using the desktop version.

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4: Skip internet addresses

Word will stop at email addresses and URLs because none of them will be in the dictionary. However, you don't have to add them to the dictionary or mark them to skip them. Word recognizes their format and will skip them if you do the following:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options.
  2. Select Proofing in the left pane.
  3. In the When Correcting Spelling In Microsoft Office Programs section, uncheck the Ignore Internet And File Addresses option (Figure E).
  4. Click OK.

Figure E

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You can skip email addresses and URLs.

You can't set this option in 365's browser version, but it will skip addresses if this option was previously set in the desktop version.

5: Other options

You probably noticed that there are other proofing options available (Figure E). These are mostly self-explanatory, but you should know about them:

  • Ignore Words In UPPERCASE
  • Ignore Words That Contain Numbers
  • Flag Repeated Words

The last one is the only one that requires further discussion and that's a recommendation: It's rare that repeated words aren't a mistake, so use caution when disabling this option.

You can't set options in 365's browser version, but it will enforce these settings when previously set in the desktop version.

Troubleshooting

Sometimes Word stops flagging words or phrases that you know are incorrect. This usually happens when you've forgotten that you told Word to ignore content. Reclaim excluded text you've previously excluded using method #2 or #3 by retracing your steps and disabling the setting. If that doesn't work, reset Spelling & Grammar as follows:

  1. Click the File menu.
  2. Choose Options in the left pane.
  3. Choose Proofing in the left pane.
  4. Select Recheck Document in the When Correcting Spelling And Grammar In Word section (Figure F).
  5. Click Yes to confirm your choice and then click OK.

Figure F

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Reset the feature.

The next time you run Spelling & Grammar, the feature will stop at misspelled content you previously told Word to ignore. Resetting will not disable the language options set in #2 and #3. You must disable these manually.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. Don't send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

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About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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