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A Writing Tip From Ly7nn

Today I received a brief, thoughtful message from a successful colleague who works in another field. Here is the email:

Thanks, Ly7nn. Let me know if you have any questions concerning the report.

What went wrong? How could my friend send me a message with my name mangled by a number? Why didn't his grammar and spelling checker catch the error and stop the message from being sent?

The likely problem is that his Microsoft grammar and spelling checker is set to "Ignore words that contain numbers." That is one of the options a user can check. But checking it results in embarrassing mistakes like the one my friend made.

Be sure you have not inadvertently checked "Ignore words that contain numbers" and "Ignore words in UPPERCASE" in your Microsoft Office grammar and spelling checker. If you have checked them, your grammar and spelling checker will skip such words–and any errors in them!

Microsoft Office 2010, 2007, and 2003 all have a different way of getting you to the page to change these settings. Begin in a Word document. Then:

In 2010, go to File, then Options, then Proofing.

In 2007, go to Office Button (upper left corner of your screen in Word), then Word Options, then Proofing.

In 2003, go to Tools, then Options, then Spelling and Grammar.

Once you get to the appropriate screen, uncheck "Ignore words that contain numbers" and "Ignore words in UPPERCASE" if they are checked.

Be sure you are using Microsoft Word as your Outlook editor to apply these changes to your email.

I hope you enjoyed this tip. If you would like to add to it or add another tip, please do. 

Syntax Training 

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

10 comments on “A Writing Tip From Ly7nn”

  • Ly4nn, for some reason this one is making me laugh. But it is also helpful–I always wondered why spell check ignored words with numbers in them–now I know what to do! Thanks.


  • It is important to remember that any automated editor is no replacement for the real thing. Not seeing any green or red on a word document does not mean that it is perfect.

  • Hi, Jan8e. I felt empathy with the person who wrote to me. I often type Ly7nn. It’s because the 7 key is directly above the y key and is easy to strike by accident. But my grammar and spelling checker always catches it and saves me from embarrassment.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for dropping by!


  • I’m with Jan8e — this tickles me. Of course, it’s 10:30pm after a 3:40am start to my day, which could have something to do with it.

    I often receive emails from one client whose typing is, at best, a mess. I recall one message that was indecipherable until I realized her fingers were on the wrong row of keys. With a little effort, I could translate and didn’t need to write back with “huh?”


  • Hey lynn! First of all thanks for the tip as i always thought we could just spell check our words!I never knew that we have an option of ignoring words that contain words.
    More importantly rather than just having an option on/off in your outlook don’t you think for someone who is in a successful position to proofread their mail or message before being sent because that gives an impression that the recipient is not taken seriously by the sender???

  • Hi, Jagan. I agree that people should proofread their messages. Definitely!

    For the Ly7nn message I received, I was not offended. I felt that my colleague was just moving too fast, clicking Send before reviewing the email. If he had wanted to impress me, he certainly would have failed, but I believe his intent was only to reply quickly.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  • Dear Lynn, the dependence of humans more on the system and declining time in everyone’s life might be the reason for your friend to have skipped the spell check available in the technology tools available these days. People have often misspelled the words in their emails and sent it without checking it before pressing the send button. It annoys the receiver at the other end but it seems everyone seems to make the same error these days and hence these kind of errors are going unnoticed now a days.
    Warm Regards,

  • Hi, Prabhat. I always notice the errors. They don’t normally annoy me, but they do give me an impression of the other person’s communication efforts.

    I always try to avoid errors, and I check carefully to do so. Still, mistakes get by. We are all human.

    Thank you for joining the discussion.


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