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Use your spell checker and grammar checker

What the spell checker and grammar checker do

The spell checker compares letters between spaces with the words it has in a dictionary that is part of the word processing system. It also checks a personal dictionary containing words you use that are not in the main dictionary, but which you don't want the system to stop at each time it does a spell check. If the spell checker does not find the sequence of letters in its dictionary or your personal dictionary, it notifies you. That doesn't mean the word isn't appropriate or isn't spelled correctly. It just means it didn't find the letters in that sequence in its dictionaries. You have to make the final decision about whether the word is acceptable.

Set your spell checker and grammar checker to check spelling and grammar as you type.

Microsoft Word has a function that checks spelling as you type. That is useful because you will catch most spelling mistakes immediately after you have typed them.

After you type a word and press the space bar, Word will compare the sequence of letters in the word with the words in its dictionaries. If it can't find the sequence, it will place a red squiggly line under the word to alert you that the word may be spelled incorrectly. Place your mouse cursor over the word and click with the right mouse button. You will see a pulldown menu. These are the options on the pulldown menu:

  1. Possible alternatives for the word will be listed first, bolded. If you really meant to type one of those, just click on it and Word will insert it for you.

  2. Click on Ignore all if you want Word to ignore this word any time it sees it in this document. Word will still flag it when you go on to work on another document.

  3. Add to dictionary will add the word to your personal dictionary. That way, when Word checks any document you write, it will find the word in your personal dictionary and will not flag it again.

  4. Click on Auto correct if you want Word to automatically correct this misspelling every time you type it in any of your documents. For example, if you tend to type "yo" when you mean "you" because you are typing quickly, set auto correct to change "yo" to "you" every time you type "yo" and press the space bar. You could do that with words you often misspell as well, such as "timud" instead of "timid." When you press the space bar after typing that misspelling in any of your documents from then on, Word will correct it automatically.

    To set auto correct, click on the "Auto correct" option. Alternative words may appear in bold. If the correct spelling is one of them, click on it. Your auto correct will be set.

    If the correct spelling isn't listed, click on "Auto correct Options." Type the incorrect spelling in the left column of the window that appears and the correct spelling in the right column. Click on "OK." Auto correct will correct it automatically from then on, in any document you write.

  5. Click on Language to change the language dictionary you want Word to use. Word contains dictionaries for different languages. For example, the British dictionary will not flag "emphasise" or "colour" but the American dictionary will. Set the dictionary for the language or dialect of English you are writing.

  6. Click on Spelling if you want Word to enter a spell checker mode and check spelling throughout the document.

If you are in a specialized field such as medicine or law, type a list of the words you use that are so unusual they will not be in Word's dictionary. Word will put blue squiggly lines under each as you type the word. Check to be sure you have spelled the word correctly; then click on it with the right mouse button and add it to your personal dictionary. If you have co-workers who also use the words, create a master list and have each person go through the list and add the words to his or her personal dictionary.

Follow this procedure to set the spell checker to check spelling automatically as you type.

  1. On Word's menu across the top of the screen, click on "Tools."
  2. Click on "Options." You will see a window similar to this one.

  1. Click on the tab for "Spelling and grammar."
  2. Make sure Word has check marks in "Check spelling as you type" and "Check grammar with spelling."
  3. Click on "OK" to close the window.

Still check for spelling to identify words that are misused but spelled correctly.

The dictionary does not flag words that are in the dictionary but spelled wrong in your text. For example, the word processor would not flag any of the words in "Eye cam too sea ewe to day." Every word is in the dictionary.

Even though you use the spell checker, you must proofread your writing.

Use the grammar checker for advice, but don't change everything it identifies.

The grammar checker checks sequences of words and has certain sequences that it flags as possibly being incorrect. For example, it would flag "Mistakes were made" and "Mistake were made" for two different reasons. It would ask you whether you really want a passive sentence for the first and whether you really need an "s" on "mistake" for the second.

The word processor can't think, however. It is just notifying you about something its formulas indicate may be a problem. You must make the final decision about whether to change the text. Don't change every instance where the grammar checker flags something.

Also don't assume that the grammar checker has identified every problem with usage in your writing. Read your sentences carefully to make sure they are clear and correct.