Software

Four ways to skip text while spell-checking a Word document

When you want to skip text while running Word's Spelling & Grammar feature, one of these methods should do the trick.

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Image: iStock/Wavebreakmedia

Most of us use Word's Spelling & Grammar feature a lot. Checking normal text is easy and uneventful. But if your document contains numerous instances of text that isn't in Word's dictionary, the process can be slow and tedious. You can sigh through it all and click Ignore Once, Ignore All into oblivion. Or you can reduce unnecessary stops using one of the four methods I'll show you in this article.

I'm using Word 2016 (desktop) on a Windows 10 64-bit system. You won't need a demonstration file. Spelling & Grammar is available in the browser version to run a basic spell-check, but none of these methods for skipping text will work.

1: Skip email addresses and URLs

Word is flexible enough to interpret email addresses and URLs correctly, but they won't be in Word's dictionary. Consequently, Word will stop at each one. If that's as annoying to you as it is to me, you can disable this behavior as follows:

  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, check the Ignore Internet And File Addresses option (Figure A).
  4. Click OK.

Figure A

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Select this option to bypass email addresses and URLs in your spell-checks.

This change affects all Office documents, not just the current Word document.

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2: Skip styles

You can accomplish the same thing by telling Word to skip specifically styled text. Now, you can use this setting to ignore custom styles, but many users don't realize that they can also exploit Word's built-in styles in this way. To demonstrate, let's tell Word to ignore its built-in style for code, HTML Code.

    With the document open, click the Home tab and the click the dialog launcher for the Styles group. Then, choose Modify from the HTML Code style's dropdown list (Figure B).

    Figure B

    wordskiptextb.jpg
    Modify the style.

    If you can't find HTML Code in the list, you can display it by clicking Manage Styles (the bottom-right button in the Styles pane). Choose All styles from the Select Styles To Show dropdown and Alphabetical from the Select How List Is Sorted dropdown. Click OK and you should find the style in the updated list.

    In the resulting dialog, choose Language from the Format dropdown (Figure C). Finally, check the Do Not Check Spelling Or Grammar option (Figure D) and click OK twice.

    Figure C

    wordskiptextc.jpg
    The option is part of the Language feature.

    Figure D

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    Check this option to ignore styled text.

    Again, this is an application-level setting, so all your Office documents will also skip the built-in style. I find this method useful for skipping code listings. You might find it useful for skipping medical, mathematical, and scientific terms.

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    3: Skip selected text

    Methods 1 and 2 and helpful, but they're permanent. If you want a temporary solution, you can select the text outright, as follows:

    1. Select the text or blocks of text that you want to skip.
    2. Click the Review tab.
    3. In the Language group, choose Set Proofing Language from the Language dropdown (Figure E).
    4. Check the Do Not Check Spelling Or Grammar option.
    5. Click OK.

    Figure E

    wordskiptexte.jpg
    This option ignores selected text.

    Use this method to mark blocks of text when you know you'll run several edits. Remember to unmark the text if you later decide to include it in an edit.

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    4: Select and ignore

    Selecting multiple instances of text to ignore is almost as tedious as dismissing each during the spell-check. Fortunately, Word will find and select them for you, based on similar formatting. In some respects, this route is the same as using a custom or built-in style. However, it's temporary, and if you're working with foreign data, the document might not have a style.

    To demonstrate this quick trick, let's use Word's Select feature to find similar formatted text and then mark those selected instances to ignore:

    1. Select any instance of the formatted text you want to ignore.
    2. Click the Home menu and then choose Select All Text With Similar Formatting (No Data) from the Select dropdown in the Editing group (Figure F). Word identifies the two similar instances of Normal with red font and selects them both. Don't do anything else—you don't want to undo the current selection.
    3. Click the Review tab.
    4. In the Language group, click Language and choose Set Proofing Language.
    5. In the resulting dialog, check the Do Not Check Spelling Or Grammar option.
    6. Click OK.

    Subsequent spell-check tasks will ignore all Normal text that's directly formatted with a red font. This method applies only to the current document. But if you save the document with this setting intact, Word will remember it. You must uncheck the setting before Word will evaluate the marked text for spelling and grammar errors.

    Figure F

    wordskiptextf.jpg
    Select text with similar formatting.

    Nothing's perfect

    None of these methods is a silver bullet. For instance, you might have noticed that I didn't use Hyperlink-styled text with methods #2 or #4. That's because Word is inconsistent in how it formats hyperlinks. If you type an address or URL, Word automatically hyperlinks it, but it doesn't apply the built-in Hyperlink style. Surprise! Word uses the built-in style if:

    • You apply the style manually.
    • You create a hyperlink using Link in the Links group on the Insert tab.
    • You insert a Hyperlink field (part of Quick Parts in the Text group on the Insert tab).

    For better or worse, if you type the address and allow Word to format it, Word recognizes the hyperlink and the text works as a hyperlink, but the style remains Normal.

    You'll also find inconsistencies when working with foreign data. For example, I routinely open PDF files in Word to run a quick edit. These files are full of PDF-specific stuff that throws spell-check into fits. I use the Select feature to find them (as formatted text or objects) and then mark them. Sometimes it works perfectly; sometimes Word still stops at instances of text I know I've marked. The incompatibility between the two formats is the cause. Word does the best it can, and something is better than nothing.

    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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