Contractions Flagged as Incorrect

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 17, 2016)

10

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 suggestsion 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, grammer checking in Word actually includes to checks: grammar and style. It is the style rules, in Margaretrose's case, that are 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, 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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Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three more than 5?

2016-10-23 13:00:39

Richard

I agree with the earlier comment on the policy of no contractions in formal writing. I have also found that sometimes contractions can lead to imprecise and confusing sentence structure in other writing styles.


2016-10-23 12:55:01

Richard

I think there is a grammar error in the article: "Word actually includes to checks".

I do thank you for the article and the information it contains.

I would not usually comment but this is an article on grammar.


2016-09-20 04:11:45

Richard Price

@A W A: I'm not sure what point you're making with "It is vs that are.... singular or plural choices".

If you simplify the sentence to "It is the rules that are causing the problem", it looks correct, doesn't it? Plural "rules... are", but singular "it is" - what would you change?


2016-09-19 10:59:18

Janette Sexton

Contractions should not be used in technical documentation. Below is an excerpt from Edit My English found on the Web:

"If you are engaged in formal writing, I would suggest that you avoid using all contractions. This includes cover letters, résumés, theses, essays, etc. Because the use of contractions seems more informal, you should avoid them in any instance in which you want to portray a professional, respected image."


2016-09-18 07:50:06

Abdul Quadir

@Fred Holmes:

All you need to do is open the Find and Replace dialog box and type the following in the two text boxes:

To replace every occurrence of "he is" or "He is" with "he's" or "He's", respectively:

Find what: <([hH]e) is>
Replace with: 1's

Make sure to tick the 'Use wildcards' check box.

For "they are" or "They are":

Find what: <([tT]hey) are>
Replace with: 1're


2016-09-17 16:34:35

Fred Holmes

I have just the opposite problem. In writing my fiction I write a lot of dialog and frequently neglect contracting phrases. Is there any way to find the phrases using find and replace so I can for example enter find He is and replace with he's. Then they are to they're. and so forth.

my proof reader would love any tip
Thank you
Fred Holmes


2016-09-17 14:59:25

Ted Duke

Something didn't compute. I'm in Word 2016 and two of us (I sought help) could not find any relationship between the advice and the displays. I think it likely that recent updates may have changed things once again. It was a forehead slapper.

The Writing Style Grammar button's Drop down "list" now has only one option: Grammar

The Settings button to the right of the Grammar still displays the Grammar Settings dialog.


2016-09-17 11:44:04

A W A

Speaking of grammar... in your tip: " It is the style rules, in Margaretrose's case, that are causing the problem."

It is vs that are.... singular or plural choices. Is it the 'style' rules or the 'rules' you are referring to?

FYI
:-)


2016-09-17 09:11:09

Margaretrose

Thank you so much for this. It has helped a great deal.


2016-09-17 07:58:01

Abdul Quadir

A minor typo:

Truth be told, grammer checking in Word actually includes "to" checks: grammar and style.

It should be "two checks".


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