Section 5.3. Spell Check

5.3. Spell Check

A spell checker in Excel? Is that supposed to be for people who can't spell 138 correctly? The fact is that more and more people are cramming textcolumn headers, boxes of commentary , lists of favorite cereal combinationsinto their spreadsheets. And Excel's designers have graciously responded by providing the very same spell checker that you've used with Microsoft Word. As you might expect, Excel's spell checker examines only text as it sniffs its way through a spreadsheet.


Tip: In Office 2003 and Office XP, the same spell checker works in almost every Office application, including Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

To start the spell checker, follow these simple steps:

  1. Move to where you want to start the spell check.

    If you want to check the entire worksheet from start to finish, move to the first cell . Otherwise, move to the location where you want to start checking. Or, if you want to check a portion of the worksheet, select the cells you want to check.

  2. Unlike the find and replace feature, Excel's spell check can only check one worksheet at a time.

  3. Choose Tools Spelling, or press F7.

    The Excel spell checker starts working immediately, starting with the current cell and moving to the right, going from column to column. After it finishes the last column of the current row, checking continues with the first column of the next row.

    If you don't start at the first cell (A1) in your worksheet, Excel will ask you when it reaches the end of the worksheet whether it should continue checking from the beginning of the sheet. If you say yes, it checks the remaining cells and stops when it reaches your starting point (having made a complete pass through all of your cells).

When the spell check finishes, a dialog box informs you that all cells have been checked. If your cells pass the spell check, this dialog box will be the only feedback you receive. On the other hand, if Excel discovers any potential spelling errors during its check, it displays a Spelling window, as shown in Figure 5-13, showing the offending word and a list of suggestions.

The Spelling window offers a wide range of choices:

  • Click one of the words in the list of suggestions, and click Change to replace your text with the proper spelling. Double-clicking the word has the same effect.

  • Click one of the words in the list of suggestions, and click Change All to replace your text with the proper spelling. If Excel finds the same mistake elsewhere in your worksheet, it repeats the change automatically.

Figure 5-13. When Excel encounters a word it thinks is misspelled , it displays the Spelling window. The cell containing the wordbut not the actual word itselfgets highlighted with a black border. Excel doesn't let you edit your file while the Spelling window is active. You either have to click one of the options on the Spelling window or cancel the spell check.


  • Click one of the words in the list of suggestions, and click AutoCorrect. Excel makes the change for this cell, and for any other similarly misspelled words. In addition, Excel adds the correction to its AutoCorrect list (described on Section 2.2.2). That means if you type the same unrecognized word into another cell (or even another workbook), Excel will automatically correct your entry. This option is useful if you've discovered a mistake that you frequently make.

  • Click Ignore Once to skip a word and have Excel keep checking the spreadsheet. If the same word appears elsewhere in your spreadsheet, Excel prompts you again to make a correction.

  • Click Ignore All to skip a word and all other instances of that word throughout your spreadsheet. You might use Ignore All to force Excel to disregard something you don't want to correct, like a person's name. The nice thing about Ignore All is that Excel won't prompt you again if it finds the same name, but it will prompt you again if it finds a different spelling (for example, if you misspelled the name ).

  • Click Add to Dictionary to add a word to Excel's custom dictionary. This is a great step to take if you plan to keep using a word that's not in Excel's dictionary. (For example, a company name makes a good addition to the custom dictionary.) Not only will Excel ignore any occurrences of this word, but if it finds a similar but slightly different variation of that word, it will provide the custom word in its list of suggestions. Even better, Excel uses the custom dictionary in every workbook you spell check.

  • Click Cancel to stop the operation altogether. You can then correct the cell manually (or do nothing) and resume the spell check later.

5.3.1. Spell Checking Options

Excel lets you tweak how the spell checker works by letting you change a few basic options that control things like the language used and which, if any, custom dictionaries Excel examines. To set these options (or just to take a look at them), choose Tools Options, and select the Spelling tab (Figure 5-14). You can also reach these options by clicking the Options button in the Spelling window while a spell check is underway.

Figure 5-14. The spell checker options allow you to specify the language and a few other miscellaneous settings. This figure shows the standard settings that Excel uses when you first install it.


The most important spell check setting is the language, which determines what dictionary Excel uses. Depending on the version of Excel that you're using and the choices you made while installing the software, you might be using one or more languages during a spell check operation.

The Options window also lets you choose the file Excel uses to store custom wordsthe unrecognized words that you add to the dictionary while a spell check is underway. You can type any valid path and filename in this combo box. Excel automatically creates a custom.dic file for you to use, but you might want to use another file if you're sharing someone else's custom dictionary.

If you don't specify the path (for example, you just type in custom.dic instead of c:\custom.dic), Excel assumes the file is located in the Application Data\Microsoft\Proof folder in the folder Windows uses for user -specific settings. For example, if you're logged in under the user account Dan_Quayle, you'd find the custom dictionary in the C:\Documents and Settings\Dan_Quayle\Application Data\Microsoft\Proof folder.


Tip: The only way to add words to a custom dictionary from within Excel is to perform a spell check and use the Add to Dictionary button. But there's a nifty workaround, which is useful if you've got a whole bunch of words you want to add in one shot: you can open the custom.dic dictionary in Notepad and edit it directly. This file is an ordinary text file, with each word on a separate line. When you're finished adding words, just save the file back to its original location.

Some of the other spelling options you can set include:

  • Suggest from main dictionary only . If you choose this option, the spell checker won't suggest words from the custom dictionary. However, it will still accept a word that matches one of the custom dictionary entries.

  • Ignore words in UPPERCASE . If you choose this option, Excel won't bother checking any word written in all capitals (which is helpful when your text contains lots of acronyms).

  • Ignore words with numbers . If you choose this option, Excel won't check words that contain numeric characters , like Sales43 or H3ll0 . If you don't choose this option, Excel will flag these entries as errors unless you've specifically added them to the custom dictionary.

  • Ignore Internet and file addresses . If you choose this option, Excel ignores words that appear to be file paths (like c:\Documents and Settings ) or Web site addresses (like http://FreeSweatSocks.com ).



Excel. The Missing Manual
Excel 2010: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 1449382355
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 185

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