How to Use Profanity Check in Word

Microsoft Word has a ‘profanity’ check to warn you about rude, offensive, or swear words in some places. In others, the same word will not get any special marking. This feature is helpful in a work environment using Microsoft. We will explain how to set up and use Microsoft Word’s Profanity check, then show its limitations and traps.

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RAYMOND OGLESBY @RaymondOglesby2
May 26, 2022

Microsoft Word has a ‘profanity’ check to warn you about rude, offensive, or swear words in some places. In others, the same word will not get any special marking. This feature can be helpful in a work environment that is using Microsoft. We will explain how to set up and use Microsoft Word’s Profanity Check, then show its limitations and traps.

This is for Microsoft Word 365, Outlook 365, and parts of Microsoft Office 365

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Note! We will be discreet in this article but the topic means there’s plenty of blurred text or Asterix.  Please do not proceed if you might be offended.

Word’s Profanity Check

Modern Word has an optional profanity check that’s supposed to warn about rude, offensive, obscene, or bad words. 

First, open Word and navigate to:

File > Options > Proofing > Grammar and refinements > Settings

Refer to the below image:

Profanity 1
Accessing Settings

Next, scroll down to the bottom. Under Vocabulary look for the Profanity option, and checkmark it. When finished, click OK. Click OK again to exit. See the below image:

Profanity 2
Enabling Profanity option

How the Feature is Suppose to Work

Now, when Word ‘sees’ a profane word, it adds a blue dotted line. Click on the word to see an explanation This language may be offensive to you. See the following image:

Profanity 3
Showing Profanity check

Next, choose Ignore to remove the dashes. Click the Speaker icon at the right to hear the word and sentence.

That’s how it’s supposed to work but there’s more to it in the real world.

How the Feature Really Works or Not

Word’s Profanity check mostly works only for lower case words.  Anything with a Capital letter is usually ignored. For us, this is a huge drawback to the feature. Refer to the below image:

Profanity 4
Profanity checking

Microsoft’s Value Judgements

One person’s plain speaking is another’s profanity.

We were intrigued that ‘ass’ is not marked as an offensive word while ‘damn’ is.  Apparently, Microsoft decided to err on the side of caution, for whatever that is worth.

Use of Capital Letters

In a similar way to some of the other Grammar and refinements checks, most words starting with a Capital letter are ignored.

As you can see, that’s not consistent.  We can not explain why two words on the list above are marked as ‘profane’ regardless of capitalization but others do not.

Word’s grammar checks, etc, treat most capitalized words like proper nouns, so it ignores them.  Of course, that makes no sense if the word starts a sentence, but that’s a distinction Word does not make. Word does have some contextual spell checking but that’s not been extended to Profanity and other grammar checks.

Here are three examples of s**t to demonstrate that only the lower-case word is marked as ‘offensive’. See the below image:

Profanity 5
Upper and lower case Profanity check

A Judgment Call

Do not just rely on Word’s Profanity test (among others) so that there are no ‘naughty words’ in your documents or emails.

As you can see, there are limits to what Word will detect. 

  • Capitalized words are almost always ignored.
  • Words with multiple meanings are always ignored with no consideration of the context.

This post is courtesy of Office Watch.

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Author: Raymond

I am Raymond Oglesby, an Information Technology (IT) specialist with 30 years in the field. I have taught Microsoft Applications and troubleshot computers in 15 countries and many States. My career was focused on mainframes and desktops from application development to implementation. I have written hundreds of programs for various architectures. I decided to start a blog to share my knowledge and experiences with you. I plan on updating this blog at least twice a week about smart phone apps to Windows. Please feel free to leave a Comment or Tweet. I would love to hear from you. Do you have a computer tech question? I will do my best to answer your inquiry. Please mention the app and version that you are using. To help me out, you can send screenshots of your data related to your question.

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