Customize spelling, grammar, and writing style options

This article explains all the ways that you can customize the proofing tools when checking spelling and grammar. For information about running the spelling and grammar checker, see Check spelling and grammar in Office 2010 and later.

Important: To follow most of the procedures in this article, you must first open the proofing options. See the first section below to open the proofing options for the program and version of Office you're using.

The proofing options vary slightly by application, but you will generally see the following groups of options:

  • AutoCorrect Options: Click this option to set or change automatic capitalization, change automatic spelling corrections, and add or change automatic replacements entries for commonly misspelled words, special symbols, or strings of text. Common accented words, such as café, can also be specified or changed in AutoCorrect Options. To specify preferences for automatic formatting of elements such as hyphens and dashes, quotation marks, hyperlinks, and fractions, see Undo or turn off automatic formatting.

  • When correcting spelling in Microsoft Office programs: Here you can choose whether you want to ignore words in uppercase and words that contain numbers or Internet addresses, flag repeated words, or enforce accented uppercase in French, and you can specify the dictionaries used in spell checking.

  • When correcting spelling and grammar in [Program Name]: Here you can specify preferences such as whether to check spelling and grammar automatically, flag frequently confused words, or show readability statistics. In Word and Outlook, this section includes grammar settings, where you can specify preferences such as punctuation, spaces between sentences, and other grammar and style rules.

    Example of common proofing options
    Example of common proofing options   

Details about all of these options are in the sections below. Word, Outlook, and Project also have some program-specific settings, which are also explained below.

  • In Office 2010 and later (except Outlook): Click File > Options > Proofing.

  • In Outlook 2010 and later: Click File >Options > Mail > Editor Options.

  • In the 2007 version of Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint: Click the Microsoft Office Button Office button image > [Program] Options > Proofing.

  • In Outlook 2007: Open a mail item, and then click the Microsoft Office Button Office button image > Editor Options > Proofing.

  • In the 2007 version of InfoPath, OneNote, Publisher, and Visio: On the Tools menu, point to Spelling, and then click Spelling Options.

  • In Project 2007: On the Tools menu, click Options, click the Spelling tab, and then click More Spelling Options.

The following is a visual example of the proofing options. (This example shows the options in Word. Options vary slightly depending on the program and the version of Office that you're using.)

Proofing options in Word

Use the AutoCorrect options to set or change automatic capitalization, change automatic spelling corrections, and add or change automatic replacements entries for commonly misspelled words, special symbols, or strings of text. To specify preferences for automatic formatting of elements such as hyphens and dashes, quotation marks, hyperlinks, and fractions, see Undo or turn off automatic formatting.

Click Autocorrect Options at the top of the page to set up AutoCorrect the way you want it. (The following example is from Word, but the Autocorrect Options button can be found in the proofing options of every program.)

AutoCorrect Options button

For more information, see Automatically correct capitalization, Autocorrect spelling, and insert text and symbols, and Automatically correct spelling with words from the main dictionary.

The proofing options under When correcting spelling in Microsoft Office programs apply to all Microsoft Office programs, regardless of the program you are using to change the option. Here you can choose whether you want to ignore words in uppercase and words that contain numbers or Internet addresses, flag repeated words, or enforce accented uppercase in French, and you can specify the dictionaries used in spell checking. (The following example is from Word, but these settings can be found in the proofing options of every program.)

Global Office spelling correction options

Select this check box:

To do this:

Ignore words in UPPERCASE

Ignore words in which all letters are uppercase. For example, if you select this option, the spelling checker does not flag ABC as a mistake.

Ignore words that contain numbers

Ignore words that contain numbers. For example, if you select this option, the spelling checker does not flag a1b2c3 as a mistake.

Ignore Internet and file addresses

Ignore words that are Internet and file addresses. Some examples of words that the spelling checker ignores when this option is selected include:

  • http://www.proseware.com/

  • \\proseware\public\

  • mailto:andy@proseware.com

Flag repeated words

Alerts you to repeated words. For example, if you select this option, the spelling checker will flag beep beep as a mistake.

Enforce accented uppercase in French

Alert you to French words that contain uppercase letters that are missing an accent mark.

When you are using the French (Canadian) dialect, by default this option is always turned on, because the dictionary for this language includes the accented uppercase form of words in this language. This means that the option is selected by default whenever you do the following:

Suggest from main dictionary only

Suggest words only from the main dictionary that is built into the spelling checker. If you select this option, words from your custom dictionaries are not included in the list of suggested words when you check the spelling of a document.

French modes: New spelling*

Click this option to use spelling rules that have been recommended by the French Academy of Language since the spelling reform of 1990. If you select this option, words that are not spelled according to these rules are treated as mistakes. Also, the spelling checker suggests only words from the new spelling dictionary, which includes words not affected by the spelling reform, for misspelled words.

French modes: Traditional spelling*

Click this option to use spelling rules that predate the spelling reform of 1990. If you select this option, words that are not spelled according to these rules are treated as mistakes. Also, the spelling checker suggests only words from the traditional spelling dictionary, which includes words not affected by the spelling reform, for misspelled words.

French modes: Traditional and new spellings*

If you click this option, the spelling checker accepts words as spelled correctly regardless of whether they are spelled according to new or traditional spelling. Also, words from both the new and traditional spelling dictionaries are suggested for misspelled words.

* This option affects only text in the French language. For example, if you click the Traditional spelling option and edit a document with the French word bruler, the word is treated as a mistake by the spelling checker because this is the post-reform spelling of this word. However, if you click either the New spelling option or the Traditional and new spellings option, the word is not treated as a mistake.

Note: For information about custom dictionaries, see Add words to your spell check dictionary.

The proofing options under When correcting spelling and grammar in [Program Name] apply only to the Office program you're currently using. (The following example is from Word, but these settings can be found in the proofing options of every program.) Here you can specify preferences such as whether to check spelling and grammar automatically, flag frequently confused words, or show readability statistics. In Word and Outlook, this section includes grammar settings, where you can specify preferences such as punctuation, spaces between sentences, and other grammar and style rules.

Program-specific spelling and grammar settings

Check spelling as you type

While you work in a document, the spelling and grammar checker can work in the background, searching for mistakes and flagging them automatically. This can save you time, especially with large documents. You can turn this feature on or off with the Check spelling as you type check box.

Note:  In Access, Excel, and Project, automatic background spell checking is not available.

In most cases, you should leave the Check spelling as you type check box selected. However, you might want to clear this check box if:

  • You want to hide spelling mistakes (the wavy red lines) in Outlook items that you are editing.

  • You're using a computer that runs slowly because of hardware or software limitations.

Use contextual spelling

Note: The contextual spelling options is available only in Office 2007 and Office 2010.

Have you ever typed a mistake similar to the following? I will see you their. In Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word, you can select the Use contextual spelling check box to get help with finding and fixing this type of mistake.

For example, if you selected the Use contextual spelling and Check spelling as you type check boxes and cleared the Hide spelling errors check box, the spelling checker flags the mistake and offers a suggestion when you right-click the flagged word, as in the following illustration.

Right-clicking a contextual spelling error found by the Office program.

Note: Selecting the Use contextual spelling check box on a system with low memory can cause slow performance. If you notice this type of problem while you are using this option, you may want to clear the Use contextual spelling check box to resolve the problem.

Mark grammar errors as you type

You can choose to have Outlook and Word flag grammar mistakes automatically with a squiggly line.

Grammar error in Word

Note:  In Outlook, the grammar checker is available for all items except Notes.

Frequently confused words

Select the Frequently confused words check box to check for words that are commonly misused.

Check grammar with spelling

Select the Check grammar with spelling check box if you want to include grammar errors when you check the spelling all at once (for example, when you press F7).

Show readability statistics

Select the Show readability statistics check box if you want to display the readability statistics after you finish checking spelling all at once (for example, when you press F7). For more information about this feature, see Test your document's readability.

Note: The following information applies to Office 2013 and earlier. For information about choosing grammar rule settings in Office 2016, see Select grammar and writing style options in Office 2016.

The Writing style menu in Word and Outlook offers two options: Grammar Only or Grammar & Style. To change the types of grammar and style rules that the grammar checker uses when checking your writing, click Settings next to Writing Style in the proofing options. You can use the Grammar Settings dialog box to view the settings and make any changes that you want. See the tables below for a description of each setting.

Grammar Settings dialog box

Why aren't the Writing style and Settings buttons available in Outlook?

There is a known problem that makes this menu and button unavailable in Microsoft Outlook. You can work around this problem by opening the proofing options from an open item, such as an email or an appointment.

Note:  Any changes that you make to these settings apply to all items that you edit, not just the one you are currently working in.

Require

Setting

Options

Comma required before last list item

Select don't check if you don't want the grammar checker to check for this issue.

Select never if you want the grammar checker to flag as errors any sentences that include a comma before the last item. The following is an example of a sentence that the grammar checker considers incorrect with this setting: Please buy milk, crackers, and bananas.

Select always if you want the grammar checker to flag as errors any sentences that omit a comma before the last item. The following is an example of a sentence that the grammar checker considers incorrect with this setting: Please buy milk, crackers and bananas.

Punctuation required with quotes

Select don't check if you don't want the grammar checker to check for this issue.

Select inside if you want the grammar checker to flag as errors any phrases within quotation marks where the comma is outside the quotation marks. The following is an example of a sentence that the grammar checker considers incorrect with this setting: While critics call the acting "inspired", they point out inconsistencies in the plot.

Select outside if you want the grammar checker to flag as errors any phrases within quotation marks where the comma is inside the quotation marks. The following is an example of a sentence that the grammar checker considers incorrect with this setting: While critics call the acting "inspired," they point out inconsistencies in the plot.

spaces required between sentences

Select don't check if you don't want the grammar checker to check for this issue.

Select 1 if you want the grammar checker to flag as errors any sentences that have more than one space after the period.

Select 2 if you want the grammar checker to flag as errors any sentences that have either a single space or more than two spaces after the period.

Grammar

Check box

Description

Capitalization   

Capitalization problems, such as proper nouns ("Mr. jones" should be "Mr. Jones") or titles that precede proper nouns ("aunt Helen" should be "Aunt Helen"). Also detects overuse of capitalization.

Fragments and run-ons   

Sentence fragments and run-on sentences.

Misused words   

Incorrect use of adjectives and adverbs, comparatives and superlatives, "like" as a conjunction, "nor" versus "or," "what" versus "which," "who" versus "whom," units of measurement, conjunctions, prepositions, and pronouns.

Negation   

Use of multiple negatives.

Noun phrases   

Incorrect noun phrases; a/an misuse; number agreement problems in noun phrases ("five machine" instead of "five machines").

Possessives and plurals   

Use of a possessive in place of a plural, and vice versa. Also detects omitted apostrophes in possessives.

Punctuation   

Incorrect punctuation, including commas, colons, end-of-sentence punctuation, punctuation in quotations, multiple spaces between words, or a semicolon used in place of a comma or colon.

Questions   

Nonstandard questions such as, "He asked if there was any coffee left?", "Which makes an offer a good solution?", and "She asked did you go after all?".

Relative clauses   

Incorrect use of relative pronouns and punctuation, including "who" used in place of "which" to refer to things, "which" used in place of "who" to refer to people, unnecessary use of "that" with "whatever" and "whichever," or "that's" used in place of "whose."

Subject-verb agreement   

Disagreement between the subject and its verb, including subject-verb agreement with pronouns and quantifiers (for example, "All of the students has left" instead of "All of the students have left").

Verb phrases   

Incorrect verb phrases; incorrect verb tenses; transitive verbs used as intransitive verbs.

Style

Check box

Description

Clichés, colloquialisms, and jargon   

  • Words or phrases identified as clichés in the dictionary.

  • Sentences that contain colloquial words and phrases, including "real," "awfully," and "plenty" used as adverbs; two consecutive possessives; "get" used as a passive verb; "kind of" used in place of "somewhat"; "scared of" used in place of "afraid of"; and "how come" used in place of "why."

  • Use of technical, business, or industry jargon.

Contractions   

Use of contractions that should be spelled out or that are considered too informal for a specific writing style — for example, "We won't leave 'til tomorrow" instead of "We will not leave until tomorrow."

Fragment — stylistic suggestions   

Fragments that you might want to avoid in formal writing, such as "A beautiful day!" or "Why?".

Gender-specific words   

Gender-specific language, such as "councilman" and "councilwoman."

Hyphenated and compound words   

Hyphenated words that should not be hyphenated, and vice versa. Also detects closed compounds that should be open, and vice versa.

Misused words — stylistic suggestions   

Nonstandard words such as "ain't" as well as miscellaneous usages such as "angry at" instead of "angry with."

Numbers   

Numerals that should be spelled out (use nine instead of 9), and vice versa (use 12 instead of twelve). Also detects incorrect use of "%" in place of "percentage."

Passive sentences   

Sentences written in the passive voice. When possible, the suggestions are rewritten in the active voice.

Possessives and plurals — stylistic suggestions   

Questionable but not strictly incorrect possessive usages such as "Her memory is like an elephant's" or "I stopped by John's."

Punctuation — stylistic suggestions   

Unneeded commas in date phrases, informal successive punctuation marks, and missing commas before quotations — for example, "She said 'He is due at noon.'"

Relative clauses — stylistic suggestions   

Questionable use of "that" or "which."

Sentence length (more than 60 words)   

Sentences that include more than 60 words.

Sentence structure   

Sentence fragments, run-on sentences, overuse of conjunctions (such as "and" or "or"), nonparallel sentence structure (such as shifts between active and passive voice in a sentence), incorrect sentence structure of questions, and misplaced modifiers.

Sentences beginning with "And," "But," or "Hopefully"   

Use of conjunctions and adverbs at the beginning of a sentence, or use of "plus" as a conjunction between two independent clauses.

Successive nouns (more than three)   

Strings of several nouns that may be unclear — for example, "The income tax office business practices remained the same."

Successive prepositional phrases (more than three)   

Strings of prepositional phrases — for example, "The book on the shelf in the corner at the library on the edge of town was checked out."

Unclear phrasing   

Ambiguous phrasing — for example, "more" followed by an adjective and a plural or mass noun ("We need more thorough employees," instead of "We need more employees who are thorough") — or sentences that contain more than one possible referent for a pronoun ("All of the departments did not file a report" instead of "Not all of the departments filed a report").

Use of first person   

Pronouns I and me, which shouldn't be used in scientific or technical writing.

Verb phrases — stylistic suggestions   

Use of indicative verb forms where the subjunctive is preferable, split verb phrases, and passive verb phrases — for example, "The pepper is able to be chopped without burning fingers."

Wordiness   

Wordy relative clauses or vague modifiers (such as "fairly" or "pretty"), redundant adverbs, too many negatives, the unnecessary use of "or not" in the phrase "whether or not," or the use of "possible … may" in place of "possible … will."

Words in split infinitives (more than one)   

Two or more words between "to" and an infinitive verb — for example, "to very boldly enter the market."

In Word, you can turn on or off automatic spelling or grammar checking for all documents that you create from now on, or just for the currently opened document:

  1. In the proofing options under Exceptions for, click All New Documents, or click the name of the currently open file.

  2. Select or clear the check boxes to hide spelling or grammar errors.

Note:  If you turn off automatic spelling and grammar checking for a file that you share with other people, you may want to notify those people that you made this change.

  • On the File tab, click Options, and then click Mail.

    • If you want the spelling checker to run when you click Send, select the Always check spelling before sending check box.

    • To specify that the original text of a message not be checked for spelling when you reply to or forward the message, select the Ignore original message text in reply or forward check box.

You might have some fields in Microsoft Project that you don't want the spelling checker to check.

  1. Click the File tab, click Options, and then click Proofing.

  2. Under When correcting spelling in Project, clear all of the check boxes of fields you do not want the spelling checker to check.

If you have feedback or suggestions about the spelling, grammar, and style options, please post them here.

See also

Check spelling and grammar

Undo or turn off automatic formatting

The spelling and grammar checker isn't working as expected

Select grammar and writing style options in Office 2016

Add words to your spell check dictionary

Check spelling and grammar in a different language

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