Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Changing How Word Flags Compound Words.

Changing How Word Flags Compound Words

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 4, 2017)

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 if you are using Word 2007, Word 2010, or Word 2013:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click the Proofing option at the left side of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Proofing options of the Word Options dialog box.

  4. Click the Settings button. 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. 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 Word Options dialog box.

The above steps won't work in Word 2016 because the grammar and style options are greatly reduced in that version. You could, however, try the steps and turn off the Hyphenation option in step 5; that may work in some instances.

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 (7351) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word 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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