“Show me how to use Spellcheck” is one of the smartest requests an editor has ever made of me. I mean, what we typically do is learn just enough about software to get going, then never turn back. For my first ten years of editing, I was too busy meeting deadlines to learn any new skills. But once I made time for learning, my career took off. My work got faster and better, and it got less frustrating. Now I had a student who thought, “there has to be a better way,” and she was confident enough to ask.
You know Spellcheck. You’ve seen the red underlining on misspelled words. But are you making the most of Spellcheck’s power? Over the next few posts, we’ll look at some Spellcheck features and what they can do for you:
- Language preference
- Customizing dictionaries
- Importing niche dictionaries
- Exclude dictionaries
- Readability statistics
Spellcheck Settings: Language, Style, and Display
There are a few things to watch out for in the spellcheck settings. First, know that the settings can be set for each paragraph and they can be set for each style. This is handy when you have long excerpts from previously published material, especially when that is in a foreign language or older English; you could set those in a style that deselects the spelling check or sets it to another language. But it can be a problem if you don’t realize a section isn’t being spell checked the same as the others.
The two settings are for the language and for checking the spelling. Yes, you can actually tell Word not to check spelling in a section (Figure 1).
That’s particularly handy when the paragraph is a list of names and every single one is marked as misspelled. And, depending on the version of Word, there can be a dozen varieties of English to choose from (Figure 2).
To set the language preference, first either select some or all of the document. If no text is selected, the setting is set for only the paragraph where the cursor is currently placed. You can also set the language for a particular text Style. Do that in the Styles settings.
Even when spelling is set to be checked, it’s possible to turn off the display of misspellings. That is, Word can be told to not underline misspellings while you work (Figure 3). This can be handy when the volume of squiggles makes the text hard to read. Find that setting in Options (Windows) or Preferences (Mac).
Word sometimes turns off the display of misspellings all by itself. Usually it gives a warning when it does, but you’d definitely notice a lack of red squiggly underlining. In that case, you’ll want to run Spellcheck manually and make sure Spellcheck is set to check that text (Figure 1), just not flagging the misspellings.