Set Microsoft Word to English

Do you ever run a spellcheck in Microsoft Word and then discover that it skipped some obvious typos?

The problem may be the language setting. Often I get documents to edit that have been written by more than one author and have quotations pasted from websites. And sometimes not all of the content is set to U.S. English, or a setting in the Language menu is checked: “Do not check spelling or grammar.”

By default, that box is checked for Word’s built-in Page Number style. It doesn’t hurt to have the spellcheck skip the page numbers, but you probably don’t want it to skip anything else.

One of the first things I do when editing a document is to select the whole thing (control + A) and go to Word’s language menu. If “U.S. English” is gray or if the “Do not check spelling or grammar” box isn’t clear, I click on “U.S. English” or clear the “Do not check spelling or grammar,” check box, or both. If the check box has a gray check mark in it, you have to click twice. (The gray check mark indicates that some of the text will be skipped by the spellcheck.) The first click will make the check mark black, telling the spellchecker to skip all the text in the document, but the second click will empty the check box, telling the spellchecker to skip nothing. Now it will check even the page numbers, but that’s OK.

Two other Microsoft Word options can interfere with a spellcheck. They’re in the Spelling & Grammar options: “Ignore words in UPPERCASE” and “Ignore words with numbers.” I always keep these options turned off. A word in all capital letters isn’t automatically spelled correctly. I recently ran a spellcheck on a document that had numerous instances of the word SAFETY in all caps. The spellchecker found SAFTEY and SAFET. Words with mumbers aren’t automatically spelled right either. I’ve often found cases of the numeral one in place of a lowercase L. The numeral might have gotten there because of an error in optical character recognition—for example, when Acrobat scans text to make it readable. In some fonts the lowercase L looks a lot like the numeral one. I’ve even had the spellechecker stop at a word that looked fine to me, but it wasn’t fine: it had a numeral instead of a letter.

If you set your language option in Word to U.S. English (or whatever language you’re using) for the whole document and tell the spellchecker not to skip anything, the spellchecker will do a better job for you. Happy typo hunting!

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