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Spell-Checking Abbreviations

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Spell-Checking Abbreviations.

Dave ran into an annoying problem where the spell-checker in Word would routinely mark certain abbreviations as incorrect. Words like "Mr.," "Mrs.," and "Dr." would each have the abbreviation (without the trailing period) marked as incorrect.

Some WordTips readers indicated that this behavior is related to the language you are using for the document. For instance, the abbreviation "Mr." would be a spelling error in UK English, although it is not in US English. While this may be the case, I couldn't get my copy of Word to mark "Mr." as a spelling error in a UK English document, although it did mark other spelling difference such as color (colour). Even so, you might check to see which language is being used for proofing your document.

It is also possible that the spelling error could be triggered by the abbreviation not being terminated with a normal period. If the period that you see is really some other symbol (even though it looks like a period), then Word may not recognize it. Still, in such instances testing has shown that the abbreviation and the terminating symbol will both be underlined by the spell-checker.

Another possibility is that the abbreviations have somehow been added to the exclusion list used by the spell-checker. Get out of Word and use the search capabilities of Windows to locate files that end with the .EXC extension. These are your exclusion lists used by Word. This is a regular text document that you can open with Notepad. If you examine the file's contents and find any of your errant abbreviations in there, delete them, save the file, and restart Word.

If the problem persists, then you can always add the abbreviations to your dictionary. As each abbreviation is flagged by Word, right-click the abbreviation and choose to add it to the dictionary. They should not be flagged again.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (332) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Spell-Checking Abbreviations.

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