The following is a small sample of the words MS Word marks as a grammatical error:

don't, I've, I'd, doesn't, I'm

These are all contractions.

However it doesn’t mark anything as a grammatical error if I write these out:

do not, I have, I would, does not, I am

I’m using Microsoft Word 2016 and in previous versions it never did this. Is there a feature I need to turn on or are they at Microsoft starting to turn into grammar police? As far as I know contractions are still considered proper English.

  • 10
    Does it have a red line underneath or a green one?
    – jpmc26
    Dec 7, 2017 at 21:46
  • 12
    Note that contractions are generally considered inappropriate in written documents, except if they reflect spoken language, like he said “...”. That’s why they are marked by default.
    – Aganju
    Dec 8, 2017 at 3:58
  • 7
    @Aganju They’re considered inappropriate in some types of formal written documents, such as legal documents, but in the majority of ‘written documents’ (normal letters, memos, pamphlets, prose, minutes, etc.—even things like e-mails may be included), they’re perfectly appropriate. Dec 9, 2017 at 9:48
  • 1
    @jpmc26 Sorry for the delay. MS Word marks contractions with a blue line. So I guess it's not accurate to say 'misspelled'. I'll ... umm I mean .. I will .. change the qst to reflect that. Dec 13, 2017 at 13:55
  • Because Data in Star Trek TNG couldn't use them?
    – Joe
    Dec 14, 2017 at 5:28

2 Answers 2


Maybe it is default checked in 2016, while it was not in previous versions. You can change it in

  • File - options - proofing
  • next to "writing style" click "settings"
  • in "style" group uncheck "contractions"

enter image description here

  • 4
    I know for a fact that this setting was on by default in at least one older version of Word; I’m talking pre-ribbon, though, like 2000 or 2003. But I remember having to dig in and find this setting to turn it off.
    – KRyan
    Dec 8, 2017 at 5:53

As far as I know contractions are still considered proper English.

They are - but not in formal English.

Note that this a Grammar setting not a Spelling setting.

Please take a look at the Grammar and Writing Style options, in particular the section called "Formal Language":

  • Contractions Targets contractions (e.g., let's, we've, can't) which should be avoided in formal writing, such as in legal documents. Example: The animal won't be authorized to be out of the bag during the flight. Won't will be corrected to will not.

  • Informal Language Targets informal words and phrases which are more appropriate for familiar, conversational settings. Please consider using more formal language. Example: Our atmosphere includes comfy massage chairs. Here comfy is corrected to comfortable.

  • Slang Targets regional expressions or slang terms which may not be understood by a general audience, and should therefore be avoided in formal writing. Consider using more standard expressions. Example: My cat barfed all over my homework last night. Barfed is corrected to vomited.

You need to uncheck "Contractions" in the "Grammar" settings, first selecting "Grammar & more" in the "Writing style" popdown:

enter image description here


  • Click the File tab, and then click Options.

  • Click Proofing.

  • Under When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, click Settings.

  • The Writing style menu has two options Grammar and Grammar & more. You can choose either option depending on which settings you want apply to your document.

Tip: By default the editor proofing options are set to Grammar & more and have Wordiness and Nominalizations style options selected.

  • Choose Grammar & more option from the drop down if you'd like to have suggestions for style

  • Scroll down to see all of the options available, and select or clear any rules that you want the grammar checker to flag or ignore. Any changes that you make to these settings apply to all the documents or items that you edit, not just the current document you are working in.

Source Select grammar and writing style options in Office 2016

Image source Checking style in proofing in Word 2016

  • 3
    pointing out it is a grammar check and grammar option is the key..... the OP specifically asks "why is this a spelling error"
    – Mike M
    Dec 8, 2017 at 8:58
  • @MikeM jpmc26 asked the OP to clarify if it was a spelling or grammar error (red/green line). Unless or until they answer, I would work on the assumption that they've conflated the two types of error (especially as the question includes "are they [Microsoft] starting to turn into grammar police").
    – TripeHound
    Dec 8, 2017 at 12:31
  • 1
    I find the example for "won't" curious; the sentence is not well-written in either case, but I'd consider it more understandable with "won't be" than "will not be". To my ear, adding too many beats between a subject and a passive construction may lead an audience to tentatively (but wrongly) assign the subject an active role. In any case, "The animal must remain in the carrier throughout the flight", or "cabin personnel will not authorize the removal of animals from their carriers during the flight" would be better.
    – supercat
    Dec 8, 2017 at 15:42
  • 2
    This isn’t a grammar setting, even though it lives under “Grammar Settings” (it’s part of the “& more” bit of “Grammar & more”). Máté’s screenshot more accurately reflects what it is, namely a style setting. Grammatically, the contracted and uncontracted versions are equivalent; the difference is purely a stylistic one. Dec 9, 2017 at 9:51

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