Software

Skipping text in Word while spell checking a document

Don't let technical terms and jargon slow down spell checking tasks! Check one simple setting and skip all those specialized terms!

I use Word's Spelling & Grammar feature nearly every day. When the document is full of normal text, the process is quick and painless. On the other hand, when a document contains code (and they often do) Word stops at every unrecognized term. It's slow and annoying. Any Word user can run into the same situation. All you need is a set of specialized terms—medical, scientific, mathematical, and so on.

Now, there are a couple of not-so-great workarounds. You can add all those terms to the dictionary. It'll take time, but eventually you'll get most of them. You can also purchase custom dictionaries with specialized terminology. If a custom dictionary isn't the answer, you can click Ignore All for a single term or phrase or move the cursor beyond a larger section of specialized terms (such as code) and click Resume. Either way, you must repeat the action several times and it slows you down. The good news is that Word will skip these specialized terms, with a little preparation before you spell check the document. That preparation comes in the form of styles. To the terms and blocks of text you want skipped, you must apply a style other than the one(s) used throughout the rest of the document that you don't want skipped. If your users have to wade through technical terms, they'll find this skipping option helpful. Here's how to set things up:

  1. Apply a style to the terms you want skipped. You can use an existing style or create a custom style but the style you apply to the terms you want skipped must be different from the other styles used throughout the document.
  2. Click the Home tab and click the Styles group's dialog launcher. In Word 2003, choose Styles and Formatting from the Format menu.
  3. In the Styles task pane, select the style you want skipped.
  4. From the style's dropdown menu, choose Modify.
  5. In the resulting dialog box, choose Language from the Format dropdown.
  6. Check the Do Not Check Spelling Or Grammar option.
  7. Click OK twice and close the Styles task pane.

When you run Spelling & Grammar, Word will skip any text with the specified style. It's a great way to skip single words or even entire pages or sections.

Most users won't find this setting on their own because it's hidden away in styles. Thanks to Tiffany Taylor at Manning Publications for reminding me of this useful setting!

About

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.

9 comments
binarydad
binarydad

GoToAssit popup continues to block article contents after selecting collaspe in the popup. Have to navigate off current page abd back to to dismiss. I love Tech Republic but these are really annoying ads!

stu.hunter.1994
stu.hunter.1994

gosh. things have gone in reverse. In office 2003 we used to be able to mark text strings as "non-proofing" and MSAnything skipped it... forever. Also double barrelled words which are prevalent in Australian town names courtesy of our indigenous peoples heritage, could be managed. you could even install a custom dictionary of these words at a corporate level and be sure to never see "delete repeated word???" again.. example Wagga Wagga NSW, Goonoo Goonoo etc. I'm not sure this suggestion is very workable in comparison. Can we get non-proofing back please??

stapleb
stapleb

Thanks Susan. I like the idea of using styles, as well as the option of using do not spell selected text from Language. It appears that some of the people who have added comments here have to faith in the abilities or approach of their staff or coworkers. If someone produces a document that does not meet company standards then they need to be counselled about their poor work practices. That is not the fault of Word, it is the fault of management.

ppg
ppg

This tip is also useful if you wish to include a passage in a different language. Use a different style for the passage and format the style. Instead of choosing "Do not check spelling or grammar" choose the appropriate language.

Gary.Wiles
Gary.Wiles

As a programmer using blocks of code between paragraphs this is a great tip! Thanks Susan and thank you kees lucassen for sharing even more to the process.

kriskirkwood
kriskirkwood

Maybe I missed something - and I can see why you wouldn't want to be check formulas or source code - but I would think it's rather important to be sure the specialized terms your company uses are correctly spelled if you want to continue in business kk

kees lucassen
kees lucassen

Thanks for the using styles Tip! If you just want to skip a single part of your text while spell checking in Word, it's also possible without using a style. Select the text you want to skip spell checking. Choose Language from the Extra menu (Word 2003), and check Do Not Check Spelling Or Grammar option. And a really fast way of getting there is double clicking the "language button" on the status bar.

n4aof
n4aof

The article presents a high tech answer to the underlying problem of people being too lazy to update the custom dictionary properly and looking for some shortcut way to avoid doing their jobs properly. As you point out, misspelling technical words significant to your profession is a quick route to business disaster. A reader may be slightly annoyed at finding 'the' misspelled as 'teh' somewhere in a document (if the reader notices) but that annoyance is largely because the reader knows (correctly) that the writer did not care enough to bother spell checking the document before sending it out. On the other hand, the annoyance over a writer who didn't care enough is the BEST that you can hope for when you misspell a technical term. If everything else is spelled correctly but technical terms are misspelled, the reader is likely to assume that the writer is incompetent in the field and didn't know how to spell the terms correctly. An even worse situation arises when the misspelled word turns out to be a correct spelling of the wrong term (this can be quite common is some technical fields where many similar words have different meanings). This right-spelling-wrong-word will occasionally occur even in non-technical documents due to the way Microsoft Office's spell check system works combinded with the laziness of users who accept the first recommended spelling and click CHANGE or even CHANGE ALL without bothering to look to see what word the spell check is recommending and how it fits in context.

Ostrowsky
Ostrowsky

I kind of feel the average user wouldn't bother with the convoluted fix suggested and would simply do as the reader above as suggested for Word 2003. (And in 2007, Review tab, then double click the Language button and then choose Do Not check Spelling and Grammar). Easy, quick and gives more control to the writer, rather than hiding it away in styles.