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: Spell Checking Forms.

Spell Checking Forms

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 30, 2017)

Many people use Word to create forms that are then used by others to input information. I am not talking about your average, run-of-the-mill forms which are printed out and reproduced on a copier. I am talking about using forms with Word's special form fields that are used to collect specific data without allowing the user to modify the text surrounding the input fields.

Since these types of forms are protected, by design, the user cannot run certain Word tools on the form and cannot do other things, such as run macros. This is beneficial in many instances, but can be a drawback if you have special needs. One such common need is to run the spell checker on the form after the user inputs their information. However, this cannot be done, again because tools such as the spell checker are disabled.

Truth be told, however, and you will find that when you insert a form field, Word inserts it with the Language attribute set to "no proofing." This means that even if you could run the spell checker, Word would ignore the information typed into the form fields.

While this may sound a bit hopeless, there is a way around it. You can run the spell checker on your form by using a macro. The simplest way to do this is with the following macro:

Sub SCForm()
   ActiveDocument.Unprotect
   Selection.WholeStory
   Selection.LanguageID = wdEnglishUS
   ActiveDocument.CheckSpelling
   ActiveDocument.Protect Type:=wdAllowOnlyFormFields, NoReset:=True
End Sub

Note that the macro sets the Language attribute for the entire document to US English. If you are creating forms in some other language, you should make sure that you change the macro so the appropriate language is selected.

When you are making the form, define a style for the input fields. The key attribute of the input field style is that you have to explicitly disable the do not check spelling attribute by following these steps:

  1. Define the field you want to use for your input fields, as described in other WordTips.
  2. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group. Word displays the Styles task pane.
  4. In the list of styles shown, hover the mouse pointer over the name of the style you created in step 1. A drop-down arrow should appear at the right side of the style name.
  5. Click the drop-down arrow and choose Modify. Word displays the Modify Style dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The Modify Style dialog box.

  7. Click on Format and select Language from the pull-down list. Word displays the Language dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  8. Figure 2. The Language dialog box.

  9. Make sure the Do Not Check Spelling or Grammar check box is not selected.
  10. Click on OK to close the Language dialog box.
  11. Click on OK to close the Modify Style dialog box.
  12. Apply the new style to all your input fields.

There is a drawback to this macro which may not make it acceptable for all uses. When run, the macro spell checks everything in the document, not just the contents of the form fields. This is only a drawback if the form has lots of words which the spell checker may consider misspelled, such as highly technical prose. If you find yourself in such a situation, you will need to create a more complex macro that actually searches for and steps through the fields in the form or you could arrange to add the word to the dictionary file.

There are two things to remember when using this macro with a form:

  • Make sure you associate this form with the template that contains your macro.
  • You will need to assign the macro to the Quick Access Toolbar. This is the only way it can be run. Remember that you cannot access the Macros control when filling in a protected form.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9445) 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: Spell Checking Forms.

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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