NSFW or 'naughty' words aren't in Microsoft Word - why?

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There’s a strange, almost prudish, feature in the Microsoft Word spell checker aka Microsoft Editor that’s used in many of the company’s products. We’ll explain Microsoft seeming avoidance of ‘Naughty Bits’ and why it’s happening.

Warning!  This article is unusually explicit (NSFW) for Office Watch. If sexually explicit but standard words (not slang) might offend, please don’t scroll down to read this piece. Scroll down to start …

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Deep in the Microsoft spell checking system is a category of words that are acceptable but not shown in the spelling corrections.

We all know how the Word spell check (aka Microsoft Editor) works.  A misspelled word (i.e. not in the Microsoft or your custom dictionaries) gets a red squiggly line.  Click or right-click to see spelling suggestions which appear in different ways depending on the version of Word.

Spelling suggestions Word 365 style (left) or earlier Word’s (right)

Some words won’t appear in that spelling suggestion list, even if the typed word is very close to correct.

The words we’ve found aren’t slang but proper, dictionary words for what Monty Python calls ‘Naughty Bits’.

These words are in the dictionary and, if typed correctly, will be accepted with no red squiggly line. However, the same words don’t show up as corrections even when there’s just a tiny variation.

Even stranger, some word forms do appear as suggestions even though the root word doesn’t.

To test, we tried very slightly incorrect spellings of the last letters.

Penis and Vagina are simple examples. They are accepted by Word’s spell checker (top line) but not as a spelling correction.

‘Vulva’ doesn’t show up as a correction but the adjectival form ‘vulvar’ does. Curiouser and curiouser.

After those examples, it’s no surprise that ‘cunnilingus’ doesn’t show up as a spelling suggestion. But it is a surprise that ‘cunnilingual’ can appear depending on the misspelling.

No such variation for ‘fellatio’.

Some words like ‘lesbian’ and ‘homosexual’ that you might expect to receive this ‘special’ attention are rightly handled as normal.

What’s going on?

This isn’t new.  We tried the same words in Office 2007, it had the same missing suggestions behavior.

Most likely Microsoft is risk-adverse, not prudish or squeamish.

Probably the company didn’t want complaints that ‘rude’ words were appearing in the spelling suggestions, especially when the user didn’t want that word. For example, a misspelling of ‘penal’ (gaol, jail, prison) could show ‘penis’ as a correction. That kind of help is likely to get complaints from schools and some organizations.

Even worse, a user mistakenly clicks on the wrong correction and a ‘naughty’ word accidently shows up in a contract, brochure, or homework.

It seems the ‘banned’ list of spelling suggestions wasn’t extended to other word forms.  That would explain why adjectival variants can appear as corrections, but the base word doesn’t.

It’s a Word / Editor quirk that’s worth keeping in mind, nothing more.

Choose the text to spell check & proof in Word 365 Editor
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