Adventures with Spell Check

Spell Check

Dutch Bible; preferable to a dictionary

I’m a writer, not a computer programmer. This is my attempt to describe recent adventures I’ve had with Spell Check.

The problem began a few weeks ago when I sent my most recent manuscript, the one I’ve been slaving over this PC for two years writing, to my agent to read.

She worked on it using track changes via “Pages” on her Ipad, made some suggestions, sent it back and complimented me on my work.

I examined her changes, made some alterations, tweaked a couple scenes, cut one, added another and felt I was done.

So, like any responsible writer, I ran Spell Check on my 102,000 word manuscript before I sent it back.

That’s when the problems began.

Spell Check didn’t recognize “can’t.”

That made no sense, but I’ve run into idiosyncrasies with this program before.

I added “can’t” to the dictionary and moved on.

It didn’t recognize don’t, didn’t, shouldn’t, or basically any contractions. It particularly hated I’ve.

That made no sense to me, but remember, I’m only a writer.

Closer examination revealed Spell Check was running in French.

I had some French words in my text (1/3 of the story takes place in France), and it was happy with those, but why was Spell Check running in French on a manuscript written in American English?

My husband, the brilliant nuclear engineer/resident computer guy, examined the manuscript and decided the problem was an interface between the Ipad and my PC.

He cleared all the formatting out of the manuscript, scrubbed it, made sure the default language for Spell Check was English, and returned it to me.

102,000 words, nearly 400 pages, needed to have all their paragraphs indented again.


Tedious, but worth the trouble.

Another opportunity to review the story, and then, of course, I ran Spell Check.

It was running in Dutch this time.

Maybe it’s the computer?Crystal Clear action spell check.png

He wasn’t home that day, so I shifted my manuscript to a different computer.

Spell Check wanted to argue with me. Shouldn’t this be Dutch? Or German?

Now that I knew the trick, I checked “Default,” (I’m operating in Word 2010. File/Options/Languages)

Default language already was English.

I went back to manual, thinking I’d just add the problem words into the dictionary. The Dutch dictionary.

It wouldn’t allow me to add words to the dictionary.

How about trying on a different network?

I sent the manuscript to myself at work and tried to run Spell Check off Windows 2007.


Default Language: English.

Upon my return home, I turned to Google: “Why is my Word document Spell Check in Dutch?”

Thank God for Suzanne Barnhill, right here.

She had an answer to my question,

Still having trouble?

Yep. Default was English, but I couldn’t add words to the dictionary.

Just solved it, this way: File/Options/Proofing/Custom Dictionary

Now, my Word 2010 allows me to add words to my dictionary. My English dictionary.


Hopefully my problem is solved.

The real question, though, is why did it switch languages in the first place?

We don’t know.

I’m the only person who has had this problem with my agent.

She’s not the only person who has used Track Changes on this manuscript, but she is the only who did it off Ipad Pages.

No one speaking Dutch commented on it.

Still no explanation, but it’s working now and I’m gelukkig.

Er, happy.

And while I’m on the subject of IOS, could someone please tell Apple that I know how to spell?

I appreciate when they ask me if I’m sure I want to spell something like, say, my last name, but after that, couldn’t they just take my word for it?


For a splendid, funny, lengthy, insight article explaining the history of Spell Check and some of its idiosyncrasies, check out Wired Magazine‘s July 2014 article, “The Fascinating . . . Frustrating . . . Fascinating History of Autocorrect.


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  1. A Plague on the House of Apple Pages

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