My #1 Favourite DIY Editing Tool: Word Proofing Options

Image courtesy of ningmilo at FreeDigitalPhotos.netFor pointing out gaping plot holes, sagging middles and uneven character development, nothing beats the eagle eyes of a good editor. I wouldn’t publish without one.

But for spell checking, grammar checking and copy editing, I rely on three electronic tools to help me polish my manuscript.

This post takes a closer look at what Word has to offer.

Word Proofing Options

Word has a wide array of proofing options grouped under AutoCorrect, spelling and grammar checking, and writing style options.


You’re familiar with autocorrect on your phone and the inadvertent, and sometimes hilarious, assumptions that apps make. Word does the same. Those funny substitutions don’t mean you turn off Word’s AutoCorrect; it’s far too valuable to ignore.

On Word’s AutoCorrect tabs you’ll find:
  • seven AutoCorrect options
  • ten AutoFormat options
  • fourteen AutoFormat As You Type options.
Among those options, you can set up punctuation AutoCorrects like:
  • replace straight quotes with curly quotes
  • replace two dashes (- -) with an em-dash (—)
  • capitalize first words of sentences.
You can also add your own items to the autocorrect list, such as:
  • shortcuts for frequently used words or phrases, e.g. your character or place names
  • words that you frequently misspell but aren’t on Word’s list.

Links for more information:

Windows Autocorrect
Mac Autocorrect

Spelling and Grammar Checking

Turn these options on and set them up for fiction writing. Then pay attention to the red (spelling error) wavy underlines and green (grammar error) wavy underlines. Those underlines will identify:
  • spelling errors in the language set for your computer or, optionally, in each document
  • punctuation errors like comma placement or two spaces after a period
  • subject-verb agreement like “A bubble floats.” and “Four bubbles float.”
  • and twelve other items.

If you get the red wavy underline under words that are real , e.g., names of people and places, or you invent words for your worlds, you can add these words to the dictionary. Then Word will catch those typos as well.

Links for more information:

Writing Style Checking

You can think of Word’s Style checking as high-level grammar checking. The ones that break my brain to find, never mind figure out. Turn these options on and set them up for fiction writing. Then pay attention to the blue wavy underlines. Those underlines will flag:
  • misused words like there, their, and they’re or its and it’s
  • run-on sentences
  • incorrect hyphenation
  • when numbers should be spelled out rather than presented as numerals, e.g., twenty-two vs 22.
  • and seventeen other items.

Links for more information:

Windows Style Checking
Mac Style Checking

Not Every Error is Caught

Word won’t catch every single error you make. If a legitimate word is used in an acceptable way, Word won’t throw up a wavy line. That’s when you use my other two favourite DIY tools, and using a read-back function on your computer. I’ll talk more about them in later blog posts.

My favourite typo of all time is “carrion luggage”. What’s yours?

Daunted by All This?

Nowadays, whether you favour traditional or self-publishing, or a combination, your manuscript will be converted to an ebook, and uploaded to online retailers. Printed versions will be available to booksellers and readers. Word is your primary tool during this entire process. Mastering Word makes sense. You’ll save time, money, and effort. And make life easier for all the people whose desks your story will cross.

Find out to how finesse the proofing options and much more. Sign up for my Mastering Word for Fiction Writers course today.


© 2016, Joan Leacott
Image courtesy of ningmilo at

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