Contractions Flagged as Incorrect

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated March 4, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


When Margaretrose uses a contraction in her writing, Word adds a squiggly underline to the contracted word. When she right-clicks the word, Word indicates that the contraction should be spelled out instead of contracted. Margaretrose wonders how she can correct this so that her contractions—which she prefers—are not flagged as incorrect.

There are, in general, two types of checking that Word does as you are typing your document—spelling and grammar. Sometimes it is easy to confuse the two types of checking, but they are distinct and different in Word. This is evidenced by the fact that you can turn off (or on) checking for both spelling and grammar independent of the other.

The checking that is producing the offending squiggly underlines in Margaretrose's case is grammar checking. The giveaway to this fact is that when she right-clicks the underlined word, she sees a suggestion to spell out the word instead of using a contraction. This is a suggestion of the grammar checker, not a spelling checker. Many people suggested, in Margaretrose's case, to add the contracted word to the dictionary. However, adding it to the dictionary won't help if the fault is with the grammar checker.

Truth be told, grammar checking in Word actually includes two checks: grammar and style. It is the style rules, in Margaretrose's case, causing the problem.

There are a few ways you can approach a problem such as Margaretrose's. The first approach is to turn off the grammar rule that deals with contractions, in this manner:

  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 Proofing at the left side of the screen.
  3. Click the Settings button. Word displays the Grammar Settings dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Grammar Settings dialog box.

  5. Using the Writing Style drop-down list, choose Grammar & Style. (In Margaretrose's case, this option is probably selected by default.)
  6. Scroll down so you can see the Style checking controls.
  7. Clear the Contractions check box.
  8. Click on OK to close the Grammar Settings dialog box.
  9. Click on OK to close the Word Options dialog box.

At this point, any contractions in your document should not be marked with a squiggly underline because Word is no longer applying the style rule you unselected in step 6. If you want Word to not apply any style rules (you probably noted there were a good number of them), all you need to do is turn off style checking. You do it by following these steps:

  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 Proofing at the left side of the screen. (See Figure 2.)
  3. Figure 2. The proofing options for Word.

  4. Using the Writing Style drop-down list, choose Grammar Only.
  5. Click OK to close the Word Options dialog box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13468) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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