Excel spellchecking – watch out for false negatives

When doing a spell check in Excel1, you should be aware that it accepts any word as correct as long as it contains a character that is outside the code page of the language checked.

So if you happen to misspell nämlich as namlich in German, Excel correctly flags your typo. However, if you are unlucky enough to spell it as nămlich, Excel happily absolves you. If this example seems contrived to you, think about foreign names. Excel leaves you on your own there, even if the correct form is in your spelling dictionary.

As long as you are aware of the issue, it shouldn’t be a major problem – of course you never rely on spell-checking only – or do you?

While I do use spell-checking as a safety net (a double one in fact by running my output through two spell-checking engines whenever possible), my primary means of living up to my own zero error tolerance is careful proofreading after completion – paced by a text-to-speech program that reads the text out to me and provides two major benefits: it prevents me from reading too fast and it alerts me to particularly surreptitious typos (long words, many consonants) by tripping over their pronunciation.


  1. Checked with Excel 2010. Let me know in the comments if you have seen the issue in later versions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.