Spellcheck for Google Docs?
November 5, 2019 9:54 AM   Subscribe

My son uses Google Docs for all school work (school requires it). The spellcheck function is atrocious! Are we doing something wrong? Is there a solution?

The Google Docs spellcheck is worse that any spellcheck I have ever used, going all the back to Apple II software. It does not flag many many obviously misspelled words. Like, words that cannot possibly be words are not flagged. I have wondered if we are doing something wrong - like a language setting is messed up, but I haven't been able to find anything like that. Is this normal for Google Docs? Is there a good way to fix it? When I google about this, I get recommendations for all kinds of browser extensions, but some of them are pay and some of them seem to have worrisome privacy issues (because they review everything you write). Does anyone have a good fix?
posted by Mid to Technology (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, you are correct.

Google Docs uses context dependent spell checking, so it looks at the previous words in the sentence and tries to determine if the word you typed is one that it would generally expect to be there or some other word that you misspelled.

In theory, I like this. One of my most common misspellings is "fro" for "for". "Fro" is, of course, a perfectly legitimate word, but I'll bet that "for" appears 1000x for every time "fro" appears and if I typed "fro" then I probably made an error. Unless I'm "walking to and fro".

Google Docs would probably get this one right, because it knows that "to and" is usually followed by "fro" and "fro" almost never appears anywhere else. "To and for" would likely be flagged as the error.

This works really well, until it doesn't.

You are basically using the entire internet as your spelling dictionary on the word and phrase level. This is why covfefe isn't flagged as a misspelled word (at least, at one point it wasn't) and why perfectly correct, but perhaps less common, words or phrases are flagged as errors.

It's also possible, of course, that you have some incorrect setting. Do you have an example of something that it is incorrectly flagging? Maybe that would help us.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:10 AM on November 5, 2019

Grammarly solves for this.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:52 AM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

We're in a similar situation, and my kid also uses Grammarly. It's not perfect, but it helps.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:59 AM on November 5, 2019

Thirding Grammarly. My kid, high school, Goggle Docs, etc. etc.
posted by The Bellman at 12:14 PM on November 5, 2019

Google Docs spellcheck is not to be trusted. As It's Never Lurgi says, it is truly helpful in some context-dependent cases, and it certainly does better than, say, Microsoft Word at catching those errors where your misspelling is an existing word but still not the right word. But the moment Google Docs flagged "a lot" as incorrect, and offered "alot" as the correct spelling for me, I ceased to trust it at all.

Grammarly is your best bet, unless you want to try the work around of having your kid draft in something with a better spellcheck, like Microsoft Word, then copy over to Google Docs. Not sure if that would work at all with your kid's school's set up though.
posted by yasaman at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2019

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