The green and red squiggly lines that may appear in a Microsoft Word document can be useful in helping you to identify grammar and spelling mistakes.

However, writers should not rely on them too heavily, as Word does not identify every error and sometimes underlines things that are actually correct.

For example, consider the following sentence typed in Word: Kevin eight dinner with his friends.

Most writers can correctly identify the error in this sentence: “eight” should be “ate.” But Word's Grammar Check will not identify it correctly.

Word underlines the word dinner because it expects you to use the plural dinners (eight dinners). However, the singular dinner is actually correct here because the writer should have used the word ate instead of eight.

Since eight is spelled correctly, Grammar Check does not identify the error.

Students often ask:if Word doesn't find every mistake for me, should I ignore all the squiggly lines?

Grammar Check and Spell Check have gotten better over the years, but are not a substitute for careful proofreading. You can certainly use them as a guide; however, a paper is not free of grammatical errors just because you managed to get rid of all of those green squiggly lines.

Instead of relying on Grammar Check or Spell Check alone, come to the Writing Center if you need help with proofreading. Tutors can help you identify and correct errors in your writing.

Find out what you can expect from a typical Writing Center session if you need some help with grammar or punctuation.

Written by: Chris Taylor

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