The Pros and Cons of Using the Microsoft Word Spell Checker

Most of us rely on a spell check every single day. This is especially true if you use Microsoft Word, which has long had an integrated spellchecker. For many, it’s a lifesaver, instantly correcting your mistakes and letting you focus on writing. But are there disadvantages to using a spell check? And what are the upsides? Let’s explore.

The Advantages of Using Microsoft Word’s Spell Check

There are plenty of reasons why you should use Microsoft Word’s spell check. Here are the most important points.

1. You Can Correct Your Mistakes Immediately

microsoft word spell check

One of the greatest perks of using Microsoft Word’s spell check is that you can immediately identify and correct your mistakes. That famous red squiggly underline indicates that you’ve spelled something wrong; simply right-click the word and choose the correct one. It saves you a huge amount of time attempting to figure out the correct spelling.

2. It Teaches You How to Spell

While you can become too reliant on spell check, which we’ll come on to, there’s an argument to be made that it actually teaches you how to spell. You can identify your mistakes, see the correct spelling, and learn from it. Think of it as a game—see how much you can type without it correcting your spelling!

3. You Don’t Need to Pay

The spell check in Word, and indeed in all the Microsoft Office programs, is free. You don’t need to pay extra on top of the software license cost. You might think this is obvious, but there are plenty of paid services out there that help you correct your spelling and grammar across all applications. In fact, Microsoft has its own, called Microsoft Editor.

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With the Office spell check, you don’t need to pay for a subscription to a service like Grammarly or Microsoft Editor. Your spelling is checked freely and seamlessly within Word, no plugins needed.

4. It Aids Accessibility

Did you know that you can use voice-typing on Microsoft Word? Many people use this for a variety of reasons, but importantly it aids accessibility. Those who are unable to type can use their voice to transcribe their thoughts.

Trouble is, voice-typing isn’t always one hundred percent accurate. That’s why spell check is so useful because you can quickly go through the document, resolve the mistakes, and then carry on speaking.

Spell check is also a lifesaver for those with dyslexia, or who have general trouble with spelling. With spell check, everyone can type documents on a level playing field.

5. You Can Change the Language

The Microsoft Word spell check supports a wide variety of languages, not just English. Go to File > Options > Language and you can choose which language you want Office to proofread in. If you don’t see yours, click Add a Language.

microsoft office language

Once you’re done, move to the Proofing section and you’ll find more language options, like different modes for French and Spanish.

The Disadvantages of Using Microsoft Word’s Spell Check

It’s not all rosy with the Word spellchecker, however. Here are some of the drawbacks to using it.

1. You Can Become Over Reliant

When you know the spell checker is always by your side, it’s very easy to become reliant on it. While it’s great that technology is there to lend a hand, it also means you might not learn from your mistakes. There’s no incentive to remember the correct spelling if you’re safe in the knowledge that Word will always catch it for you.

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But what happens when you’re writing something outside of Microsoft Office? Perhaps you’re writing a card or jotting something down for a colleague? It can look sloppy and unprofessional if your writing is full of spelling mistakes.

If the spell checker spots a mistake, attempt to resolve it yourself first. This can force the correct spelling into your brain so you spell it correctly next time.

2. It Can Interrupt Your Flow

If you’re constantly making spelling mistakes that you need to resolve with Word’s spell check, it can slow you down. This is especially problematic in situations where time is of the essence or where you don’t want your creativity interrupted.

word autocorrect

Consider making minutes during a meeting or writing a novel. If you have to trawl through and correct your spelling, it’s time-consuming. While Microsoft Office does have an autocorrect function (File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options), it won’t automatically resolve your more outlandish mistakes.

3. It Won’t Detect Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings. Often, these words have different spelling, and the Microsoft Word spellchecker doesn’t detect all of them.

For example, you can type “I saw a bare in the woods” and the spellchecker won’t mark anything wrong. Technically, you didn’t misspell anything, but “bare” should be “bear”.

However, Word can recognize the context on some sentences and correct you accordingly. For example, if you type “I don’t no the answer”, it will either autocorrect or flag the misuse of “no”. This inconsistency in behavior makes it all the more reason that you should stay on your guard, though.

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4. It Doesn’t Recognize Specialist Words

If you work in an industry that uses a lot of specialized terms, Word won’t necessarily recognize these. While Microsoft does adapt the dictionary as language evolves, it doesn’t always include slang or words that are in the zeitgeist.

word custom dictionaries

Thankfully, Word has a way to resolve this. Assuming you spell the word correctly, right-click it and choose Add to Dictionary. You can also edit your custom dictionary via File > Options > Proofing > Custom Dictionary > Edit. Plus, if your business has a pre-made custom dictionary, click Add to integrate it into Word.

It’s equally easy to edit the Windows 10 spell check dictionary, too.

5. It Can’t Fix Major Misspellings

A handy feature of Word’s spellchecker is that you can right-click a misspelling and see suggestions for what to replace it with. Trouble is, if your spelling is completely off, Word will either offer come up blank or offer replacements that aren’t what you need. If you’re unfamiliar with the correct spelling, that could lead you to select a word that means something else entirely—and you’ll be none the wiser.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Using Word’s Spell Check

While there are some disadvantages to using Microsoft Word’s spell check, ultimately it does more good than harm. Just try not to become too reliant on it, and hopefully you don’t bump into some of the technical issues that can occasionally occur.

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