Word gave up on automatically spell checking my document, how can I convince it to try it one more time.
July 12, 2007 4:14 PM   Subscribe

I am working on a large (200 page) document that had many spelling errors due to an abundance of scientific names. I have since made a custom dictionary to take care of check those, but I have having trouble getting the 'check spelling as you type' to turn back on. Any suggestions?
posted by buttercup to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
This is the world's most obvious answer, but: I assume you have checked the "Check spelling as you type" box in Tools > Options > Spelling & Grammar?

If you have done that, try clicking "Recheck document" at the bottom of that same window.
posted by Siobhan at 5:29 PM on July 12, 2007

close the document and reopen word. I had an word ebook and had to turn off automatically checking every time i opened it.
posted by DJWeezy at 5:38 PM on July 12, 2007

200 pages? Scientific? You should consider the possibility that Word is not the best tool for this job. This may be the first of many hurdles you'll face. Footnotes, indexing, table of contents, page numbering, headings. Word is obviously supposed to do all of this but for such a large and specialized document you may find that Word will do it just as well as it's doing your spell checking. This isn't the first AskMe about Word and large, technical documents.

The answer in the bast has been LaTeX. I'm surprised I was able to come into the question so late and still be the first person to mention it. Whatever task you need for your paper, someone has already figured out how to do it with LaTeX. Is this for coursework? If so, it's also likely that your department's formatting requirements have already been handled for you. And not only has much of this work been done, LaTeX will make the result look much nicer than Word would no matter how much effort you put into it.

Of course, LaTeX has a learning curve and you've already invested a lot of time in formatting your document with Word. If you're sure that Word can handle your needs with respect to a table of contents, an index, footnotes, etc... then I guess it may be faster (but uglier) to convince Word to properly spell check your document.

Have you considered breaking it into chapters and then reassembling them when you're done? Can you properly spell check smaller documents?

With LaTeX, spell checking your document will be done by a third party text editor or by a third party command line tool.
posted by stuart_s at 5:57 PM on July 12, 2007

I recommend turning off check spelling as you type, permanently. It is nothing but a distraction to your thought as you write. Perform administrative tasks such as spelling corrections after your writing is done. This speeds your writing and improves your focus. The misspelling notations just distract you from your main task. Look at this issue you are facing as a feature, not a bug, that is the Microsoft way.
posted by caddis at 6:19 PM on July 12, 2007

There's a page limit for live spell check, and I've run into at less than 100 pages. Can't find the exact limit at the moment, but I'm sure you've gone waaaay past it. Try a new, blank document - I bet you mathowie's busted iPhone that check-as-you-type spell check works.
posted by niles at 7:38 PM on July 12, 2007

run into it
posted by niles at 7:39 PM on July 12, 2007

Every time anyone asks a question about scientific writing someone pops up and says "Use LaTeX". Seriously, this isn't helpful to someone who needs help with a Word document. LaTeX might be amazingly useful, but in reality there are many more people using Word than LaTeX. Collaborating with other authors is a lot easier if everyone uses the same program (so that my sweet but computer-befuddled former advisor won't delete all of the LaTeX markup in a text file, because she has no idea what it is there for, for example). Adding references and managing them is remarkably easy with any one of the many Word helper programs (EndNote, RefManager, etc).

LaTeX is great for anyone doing professional pagesetting. Anyone else can use Word. Really. When you send the damn thing off to be published, some person with LaTex will re-format the document for you. I am confident that the learning curve for LaTeX is not worth the effort for at least 85% of the people who could be using it. Some people really prefer a fairly simple graphical interface - that's why we have things like Windows and OS X rather than a command line, and why for most people TextEdit or Notepad works better than vi or emacs. Having extensive functionality that you are not going to use, or don't know how to use, is not helpful. I've been doing scientific writing at four different institutions over the past 15 years or so and have yet to meet anyone who used anything besides Word or WordPerfect to write papers. In a physics or chemistry department, where entering complex formulas is a prerequisite to publishing anything, maybe. Other branches of science? Not likely.

As for spell check, stuart_s has a good point: Break it up into chunks, then reassemble when finished. My dissertation was pretty damn long, but it was handled quite well by Word one chapter at a time. (Word also handled auto-numbering of headers, sections, footnotes, table of contents, and figures. It isn't impossible to do without LaTex.)

My suggestion? Enter the scientific terms and names into your dictionary. Find them, one at a time, check them, enter them. Set up AutoCorrect entries for common abbreviations, symbols, etc. that you use in your writing. Names of authors are not needed in the dictionary, of course; if you have EndNote or the like handy you can use it to enter references as numbered fields, then format the bibliography when completed - that will remove a lot of the unrecognized words that Word detects as errors. If there are fewer detected spelling errors, Word has an easier time parsing new ones. You might also try running your doc through spell check on a machine with more power, if your current computer is not especially speedy.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:09 AM on July 13, 2007

Addendum: Just re-opened my dissertation. On my computer (Windows, 2GHZ processor, 1.5 g RAM) Word has no problem finding spelling errors in this 180+ page document, all the way to the end, despite large data tables, inserted figures, many cross-referenced fields, and lots of formatted references. If there is a page limit on spell check, it is over 100 pages. If you're bogged down, I suggest a faster machine.

If you happen to be using Word 2004 on OS X, well, that isn't Intel-native, if you're on an Intel Mac. When working with a much shorter document (~25 pages) on my MacBook Pro (Santa Rosa Core Duo, 4 g Ram) in Word 2004 I did notice that it had difficulty finding errors (which surprised me, given the machine specs). If you are in this situation, try to open your doc on a Windows machine. Office 2008 is supposed to address this, but of course you can't wait until the expected release date this fall to finish the paper, can you?
posted by caution live frogs at 7:20 AM on July 13, 2007

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