Grammar in Word 2003

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We take you through the basic Grammar checking options that work for English and other languages.


I pity people who have to learn English as a second language – the ‘language of Shakespeare’ is also the language of irregular spellings, strange pronunciations and grammar ‘rules’ that have a host of exceptions. And then you get into matters of taste and your education background like the endless ‘split infinitives’ debate. Those of use who grew up with English rarely think about it.

With that in mind it is worth considering how well the grammar checking in Word works – sure it has it’s glitches but overall it is a credit to many years of software development.

Word 2003, as with earlier versions, defaults to Grammar checking being on with those green squiggly lines appearing when it thinks there’s a problem.

In this issue we’ll take you through the basic Grammar checking options that work for English and other languages.


Green wavy lines under sentences in Word means the software thinks there might be something wrong with the grammar. But it is only a guide so remember:

  • The presence of a green line doesn’t mean there is something wrong – the grammar checker might be mistaken.

  • The ABsense of a green line doesn’t mean the sentence is right – or that it necessarily makes sense.

In other words the Word grammar checker is not the final arbiter of good grammar or sense. It is only a guide – and a rough one at that. As several academics have been saying recently – there’s no substitute for reading what you’ve typed.

If there is a green line you can click on the autocorrect icon (if available) or right mouse click on the sentence to see what the problem is and, sometimes, see suggested changes.


This is the most common grammar comment many people see. It can mean an incomplete sentence without a subject or verb. It can sometimes mean such a convoluted wording that the software can’t work it out.

In either case there’s no suggested changes – you have to re-write the sentence yourself or tell Word to ignore the sentence altogether.


If there’s a spelling mistake in a ‘bad’ sentence then you can get both red and green lines.

Right-clicking on the misspelled word will only show the spelling options – not the grammar ones. It’s best to fix the spelling first because that might change the grammar test results.

Or you can right-click on part of the sentence with the green line only to go to the grammar options immediately.


You don’t have to re-arrange your writing to suit the Word grammar checker – there’s always the option to ignore a sentence altogether. Once you’ve chosen that option from the right-click menu the green line will go away.

You can mark whole paragraphs or styles to be ignored by the grammar machine – see below.


Drill down to Tools | Options | Spelling and Grammar to see some options for the grammar checker.

There you’ll see the options are broken into two parts – grammar and style. This can be a fine line at times but if you click on the settings button you can see all the options in one list.

The top options (at least in Word 2003) adjust some tests that people differ upon. Whether you put a commas before the last item in the list, having punctuation with quotes and the old debating point – one space between sentences or two. There’s no right answer to any of these; choose the settings you want or leave them as “don’t check”.

Under Style you may want to choose some of the options to alert you to common mistakes.

I find that in editing a document it is easy to lose track of sentence length so I turn that check on. Some other checks don’t concern me so I leave them off – the choice is yours.

Feel free to look down the Grammar and Style list of options and select the ones that suit you, the way you write and common mistakes you might make.


In previous versions of Word you had a language called ‘No Proofing’ which told Word to not do any spelling or grammar checking on text with that attribute.

You’d use this for lists of names, programming code or anything that’s not really suitable for grammar / spell checks. Poetry is another example of ‘No Proofing’ unless you want Word to start correcting John Donne’s grammar or ee cumming’s capitalization!

No Proofing stops the green and red lines getting in the way.

In Word 2003 that has changed – now you leave the language unchanged but check a box ‘Do not check spelling or grammar’. You find this under Tools | Language | Set Language.

The ‘Do not check..’ option is also available as a Style setting, so you can create a style that includes the option to not do language checks. You’d use this for things like programming code where you can set the font etc plus stop Word from doing grammar checks.


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