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: Changing How Word Flags Compound Words.

Changing How Word Flags Compound Words

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 1, 2012)

Mark is having a problem with the spell checker and words that are connected with each other using a non-breaking hyphen. It seems that Word is flagging the words as incorrect, when it never flags them if the hyphen isn't there. Mark tried adding the words to the dictionary and tried telling Word to ignore the words, but they still get flagged.

There are two things to try. First, you can try these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Spelling & Grammar tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Spelling & Grammar tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. Click on the Settings button near the bottom of the dialog box. Word displays the Grammar Settings dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Grammar Settings dialog box.

  6. Using the Writing Style drop-down list, choose Grammar & Style.
  7. In the list of Style options, make sure there is no check mark next to the Hyphenated and Compound Words option. (If you selected Grammar Only in step 4, then the check box will be empty for this option by default.)
  8. Click on OK to close the Grammar Settings dialog box.
  9. Click on OK to close the Options dialog box.

The other option is to try a workaround that some subscribers have reported as successful. Select the first word (the one before the hyphen) and add it to Word's exclusion list. (How you create and use exclusion lists has been examined in other issues of WordTips; doing a search for the phrase on the WordTips website will turn up several results.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5394) 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: Changing How Word Flags Compound Words.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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