New spelling features in Word

Who might this blog post be useful for?: These features may be useful for anyone with literacy difficulties, or for whom English is not their first language.

What study skills challenges can this app help you overcome?: Repetition of words, time wasted looking up synonyms and definitions of words.

What is the tool or study skills strategy?: Read Aloud, Synonyms and Smart Lookup features in Microsoft Word.

Read Aloud and Synonyms

The new ‘Read Aloud’ function in MS Word has been made much more user friendly. It is now available from a drop down menu and includes synonyms. To access this feature, right click on a mispelled word underlined in red, select ‘spelling’ then hover over the spelling correction you want to have read to you.

Select ‘Read Aloud’ and you will hear the proposed spelling correction, followed by similar words. In the example below I heard “certain” followed by “similar to ‘sure’, ‘clear’, ‘particular'”. The fact that synonyms and the spelling correction are read out would be particularly useful to international students for whom English is not their first language or students with an SpLD that makes differentiating between written words difficult.

screen shot of menus leading to read aloud feature in Word

The opportunity to hear similar words is especially useful if you tend to repeatedly over use the same words in a piece of work, but you don’t want to Google synonyms every time you notice you have used the word again. If you don’t want the synonyms read aloud, you can also access synonyms by right clicking on any word and selecting ‘synonyms’ from the drop down list, as shown below. This is something I use often for essays and written coursework.

screen shot of drop down menu for synonyms when a word is right clicked on.

Smart Lookup

The new ‘Smart Lookup’ allows you to consolidate knowledge with multi media. Evidence shows that people with dyslexia have stronger recall for images rather than words, so this feature may help consolidate memory by combining the two, or assist with learning new words, for international and home students alike.


To access Smart Lookup, select a word, right click on it and then select ‘Smart Lookup’.

Microsoft word search function. Text reads' tell me what you want to do'

You can also find it by using the ‘Tell me what you want to do’ search bar on the main ribbon at the top of the page and searching for it in the same way we searched for AutoCorrect.

screen shot of dialogue box asking permission to turn on intelligent services.

Once you have enabled intelligent services, as above, Smart Lookup will open as a section to the right of your page, with Bing search results for related websites and images. As an example I’ve typed in a list of random words and selected smart look up for the famous political philosopher J.S. Mill…

As you can see, the results for ‘explore’ in Smart Lookup come up with an image of Mill, and some information beneath.

screen shot of smart look up for J S Mill

You can also select ‘Define’ which would be a really useful way to explore new key words. I can see that this feature would be very useful if you use the library facilities to have academic texts converted to Word Documents for accessibility, or if you use Sensus Access similarly. You could do your readings, while also being able to look up key information on the same page and add it onto comments in word, instead of toggling through pages of Google searches to go back to PDF documents like I usually do.

screen shot of the smart lookup define feature

Thanks for reading,