Technical Writing Tip: Make Spell Check More Efficient Using Its Dictionary

One of the useful tools in word processing programs is spell check. While not infallible (you still need to proof your own work instead of relying ONLY on spell check as explained in my blog, Tips for Using Spell Check), this tool can be helpful for catching those pesky typos or misspellings that can creep into your work. 

In my last blog, I wrote about some best practices for using spell check effectively. Today I’m going to give a quick tip for how to make it a bit more efficient. 

Though each word processing program may have its own version of spell check, many include the ability to add words to their built-in dictionaries. Why is this useful? Say you have a very technical document with some specialized terms. These words might not be in your program’s dictionary, so it doesn’t recognize them as official words and flags them as misspelled. It’s easy to tell your program to ignore unique words if they occur once or twice in your document, but if you have a lot of technical terms that you use often or across a whole set of documents, this can cause a lot of extra “errors” to pop up in your spell check.  

The more efficient way to handle it is to add these words to the dictionary your program uses. To do this, in many cases you can simply right-click on the word and select the appropriate option from the context menu (in Microsoft Word, the option is Add to Dictionary; in other programs, it may be something like Learn Word). Easy! You can also keep this trick in mind if you’re working with a lot of brand names or proper nouns as well – not only will they often be flagged by spell check programs that don’t recognize them, which takes time to review, but also having the correct spelling added means these words will be flagged ONLY when there is actually a typo, making mistakes easier to catch. 

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Remember: Before adding a word or name to your dictionary, be sure that it is spelled correctly! You don’t want to mistakenly add a misspelling of a word as it will no longer be flagged in case that mistake shows up again later. 

I hope you found this tip helpful! 

About the Author

Breanne MacDonald

Technical Editor<br><br>Fueled by her meticulous nature, an eye for detail, and a love of books, Breanne has been an editor for over 10 years. She has been a technical editor with ASCENT since 2019, and outside the office she is an avid volunteer with the Editors’ Association of Canada. Breanne holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University and a certificate in publishing from Ryerson University.

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