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Customize Your Microsoft Word Spelling Dictionary and AutoCorrect Options

A spelling dictionary will keep Microsoft Word from automatically changing the spelling of scientific terms that the software does not recognize, and the AutoCorrect feature can help you type faster and minimize spelling mistakes of words that are long or difficult to spell.

In another article, we described a way to use the Find and Replace function in Microsoft Word to search your manuscript for inconsistencies with formatting, spelling, and terminology. In this post, we’re offering another way to let Microsoft Word help you with your scientific manuscript: customizing your spelling dictionary and AutoCorrect options.

Spelling dictionary

Spelling errors are common in scientific manuscripts because of the large number of non-standard terms that are frequently used. Some scientific jargon is very different from any English word, but there are also tricky terms that look nearly identical to an English word. These “almost” words, such as proteins known as adhesins (close to adhesions) or the species name Vibrio cholerae (like cholera, the disease cause by this bacterium), can be particularly troublesome. For many cases, Word will automatically correct these words to a term in the dictionary, so be particularly careful to proofread your text. If you have to use a troublesome phrase like this, what should you do?

In general, the easiest option is to add that word to your spelling dictionary. Simply right-click on a term that is underlined in red and choose “Add to Dictionary.” From now on, that word will be considered correctly spelled. Additionally, if you misspell the specialized term in the future, it will be underlined and caught during spellcheck (as before), but you will not be tempted to ignore the false-positive spelling errors that arise because the dictionary simply did not recognize a correctly spelled term. Please note that you will have to add plural forms (e.g, adhesins) or verb conjugations separately.

Add to Dictionary


Adding terms to the dictionary is useful for words that you have spelled correctly but may not be recognized by Word. What if you tend to spell something wrong fairly often, and you are tired of having to change it? Or what if you are constantly typing a particularly long and troublesome term, and you would love to create a shortcut? You can make use of Word’s AutoCorrect function to help out.

For example, I worked with bacterial protein toxins in the past, and I would frequently write enertotoxin instead of enterotoxin. It was not a huge issue to fix the spelling during the spellcheck (I had added enterotoxin to my custom dictionary), but I eventually changed the AutoCorrect settings to automatically correct my mistake. To reach the AutoCorrect options, click on File, then Options. When the Word Options window pops up, choose Proofing in the sidebar. You can now click the “AutoCorrect Options” button.

AutoCorrect menu

You will now see a list of words that will be identified and replaced with a different term, including my example of enertotoxin.

AutoCorrect list

Adding terms to this list is easy. Simply type in the term you’d like to replace under ‘Replace:’ and the final text under ‘With:’. You can even include formatted text (italics, bold) if you choose, as in the following example. The bacterium Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans has a name that is a pain to type. If I needed to type this name frequently, I would create a shortcut using the AutoCorrect. For instance, I could type “AgAc” into the “Replace:” field and then the full name, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, in the “With:” field. Note: to use formatted text, you must first type the formatted text into your Word document, highlight it, and select Copy (CTRL+C). Now the formatted text will be available when you enter the AutoCorrect options.

Formatted text in Word AutoCorrect

We hope that this post offers you some ideas for simplifying the process of writing your next manuscript! If you have specific questions about your writing, you can always send them to [email protected]. Best wishes!

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