Checking Your Spelling Before You Print

What's more embarrassing than having spelling errors in your worksheets? The answer: Nothing. Excel's important proofing tool, the spelling checker, is just what you need to save yourself a lot of embarrassment. This tool helps you correct spelling errors.

Excel's spelling checker works similarly to spelling checkers in word processors. If it finds a word in your worksheet that isn't in its dictionary, it alerts you. If a similar word is in the dictionary, Excel's spelling checker suggests that you might want to use that word instead.

The spelling checker also alerts you if it finds repeated words (for example, the the), uncommon capitalization (tHe), or words that should be capitalized but aren't (boston). If the word in question is similar to words in the spelling checker's dictionary, the spelling checker offers alternative spellings that you may use for the correction. You can also add new words to the dictionary so that Excel's spelling checker won't flag them again.

Although the spelling checker is not a substitute for careful proofreading, it can often catch errors that the human eye might inadvertently overlook. Keep in mind, however, that a spelling checker cannot catch a word that is out of place in a sentence, grammatically incorrect, or misspelled in a way that makes a different valid word. For example, the spelling checker will not find the error in the phrase "and then their was light." The word their is a correctly spelled pronoun in English, even though it is used incorrectly in this context. (The word there is the correct choice.)

Excel's spelling checker leaves the actual decision to you. Only you can decide whether you want to make specific changes in your data. However, this tool can help you see possible weak points in your writing and offer various options to make your worksheet look professional and letter-perfect.

The following are three ways to check spelling:

  • Click the Spelling button on the Standard toolbar.

  • Click the Tools menu and click Spelling.

  • Press F7.

All three methods display the Spelling dialog box only when there's a potential spelling error. When the spell check comes back clean, you see a dialog box that says so. A nice spelling checker feature is the Undo Last button in the dialog box, which lets you undo the most recent spelling correction.

You'll start the next exercise by introducing an intentional typo and other spelling errors so that Excel has some errors to find. You'll then run the spelling checker and correct the misspelled words. Once again, you are working with the My Budget workbook. If the file isn't open right now, open it before you begin the exercise.

To Do: Check Spelling

  1. Click the Detail sheet tab. In cell A4, type Hard Covar and then press Enter.

  2. In cell A5, type quinn Soft Cover and then press Enter.

  3. In cell A6, type Audio Audio Cassette and then press Enter.

  4. Start the spelling checker at the top of the worksheet. Press Ctrl+Home. The active cell is now cell A1, the worksheet's beginning.


    When you begin the spell check, Excel checks from the active cell forward. If you start the spell check when the active cell is in the middle of the worksheet, Excel checks from that location to the end of the worksheet, and then asks whether you want to continue checking at the beginning of the sheet. Click Yes to agree, or click No to cancel spell-checking.

  5. Click the Spelling button on the Standard toolbar. The Spelling dialog box opens, as shown in Figure 7.1.

    Figure 7.1. The Spelling dialog box.



    You can also use the spelling checker to check a selected word. Click in the cell that contains the word you want to check. Then click the Spelling button on the Standard toolbar.

  6. Excel shows you the first misspelled word in the upper-left corner of the dialog box with the reason why it was flagged. The word is Covar, and it is not in the dictionary. Suggested spellings appear in the Suggestions list. The first suggestion, Cover, is the correct spelling of the misspelled word. The word Cover is already highlighted in the Suggestions list. Click the Change button. Excel changes the word in the cell.

  7. The spelling checker finds the next possible misspelled word and displays the word, quinn, and the reason for its flagging, which is Capitalization. Click Change. Excel corrects the capitalization of the word.

  8. A repeated word Audio is flagged next. Click Delete. This step deletes the second occurrence of the word.


    If you frequently use a word that the spelling checker keeps flagging, you might want to add that word to the dictionary. Simply click the Add to Dictionary button in the Spelling dialog box. Excel then accepts the word as the correctly spelled word in all future Excel sessions.

  9. The spelling checker doesn't find any more misspelled words and displays the message: The spelling check is complete for the entire sheet. Click OK. The message disappears.


If you mistakenly select the wrong Spell option, you can click the Undo Last button in the Spelling dialog box to undo the last option you chose, or you can correct the mistake after you exit the spelling checker.

Working with AutoCorrect

By default, Excel's AutoCorrect feature automatically corrects common typing errors as you type. For instance, if you type two capital letters at the beginning of a word, AutoCorrect changes the second capital letter to a lowercase letter. If you type a lowercase letter at the beginning of a sentence, Excel capitalizes the first letter of the first word in the sentence. If you type a lowercase letter at the beginning of the name of a day, Excel capitalizes the first letter for you. Finally, if the Caps Lock key is accidentally turned on, in the case of words that should be capitalized, Excel reverses the case of those letters and then turns off the Caps Lock key for you.

You can change the AutoCorrect settings at any time. To do so, select Tools, AutoCorrect Options. The AutoCorrect dialog box appears with the AutoCorrect tab, as shown in Figure 7.2.

Figure 7.2. The AutoCorrect dialog box.


All the AutoCorrect options are turned on, but you can turn any of them off. At the bottom of the dialog box is the Replace Text As You Type list. This list contains commonly misspelled words and their correct replacement words. For example, if you always type chnage instead of change, Excel corrects the word automatically because it is in the Replace Text As You Type list. You can add words to or delete words from the list. When you're finished with the AutoCorrect settings, click OK.

You can use AutoCorrect to make things easier, such as typing an acronym or abbreviated term to expand to the longer version of the word. For example, if you work for Boston City Developmental Center, something onerous to type frequently, you can set bcdc in AutoCorrect to expand to the full company name.

    Part I: Excel Basics

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