Word Marks Mixed Case Acronyms as Incorrect

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 19, 2015)

Amy wonders how she can get Word to recognize a commonly used acronym without marking it as incorrect capitalization. She frequently uses the acronym DoD for Department of Defense. For Amy, the "camel case" is the correct/preferred way to write those acronyms. Yet even though she's added the acronym to her dictionary, Word still inserts the wavy blue line at each instance.

There is an interesting thing to note about Amy's question: She said that she added the DoD acronym to the dictionary, but it is still marked with a "wavy blue line at each instance." This brings up an important point: Word uses wavy underlines of differing colors to mark different types of things it thinks are wrong with your document.

  • A red wavy underline marks a potential spelling error.
  • A green wavy underline marks a potential grammar error.
  • A blue wavy underline marks a potential formatting inconsistency.

What Amy is seeing is a mark that DoD is inconsistently formatted. So, Amy is correct—adding the acronym to the dictionary won't get rid of what Word views as a formatting inconsistency. (The wavy blue line will linger on.)

Testing has shown that simply mixing up the capitalization on a word (as is done in DoD) isn't enough to trigger the formatting flag that Amy is seeing. What is more likely is that each occurrence of DoD is formatted slightly differently from the text around it, like would happen if DoD were entered as formatted text through AutoCorrect or through another automatic method.

You can test to see if this is the case by selecting the paragraph in which the acronym appears, and then pressing Ctrl+Space Bar. That sets the formatting of the characters back to whatever is dictated by the underlying style for the paragraph. And, since the acronym now has the same formatting as the surrounding text, you shouldn't notice the wavy blue underline anymore.

If you are seeing a wavy green underline, it is probably because the grammar checker in Word cannot recognize DoD as a noun (which it is) and is interpreting it as some other form of speech. The only solution in this case is to modify the grammar checking rules or turn off the display of grammar errors.

If you are seeing a wavy red underline, then Word is indicating that it thinks DoD is, indeed, a spelling error. On my systems, I was able to add the acronym to the dictionary and the wavy red underline disappeared. Others, however, didn't have the same success on their systems. If you can't get rid of the wavy red underline, the only solution is to turn off display of spelling errors.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13412) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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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