Contextual spelling (Word 2007 and Word 2010)

May 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Contextual spelling, first introduced in Word 2007, is a nifty feature, albeit one that has definite limitations.

When the “Use contextual spelling” option is enabled, Word flags not only misspelled words, but also words that are spelled correctly but aren’t appropriate in the context in which you use them. For instance, if you type “Their are many reasons…,” Word will either change “Their” to “There” automatically or mark the word with a blue squiggly underline—even if you do not have the grammar checker enabled.

Right-clicking an item that the contextual spell-checker flags will produce a pop-up menu with some suggested alternatives.

To enable or disable the option, click the Office button, Word Options, Proofing (Word 2007) / File, Options, Proofing (Word 2010), and navigate to the section labeled “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word.” Click to check (enable) or uncheck (disable) the “Use contextual spelling” option, then be sure to click “OK” to save your settings when you exit from the Word Options.

A few caveats about this feature:

• It doesn’t always catch contextual spelling errors, so you still need to proofread your documents;

• It occasionally produces false positives;

• If you have less than 1 GB of RAM on your computer, the option will be automatically disabled to save memory; and

• If your computer seems unusually slow or your system resources appear to be low, try disabling the option. According to Microsoft, the option consumes a fair amount of memory.

This post is adapted from my book, Formatting Legal Documents With Microsoft Word 2010, which will be available on and on very soon.

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