Mastering the art of spell check in InDesign

InDesign user dictionary
(Really, we’re just trying to make your life easier. And ours.)

At The Creative Department, we often design and build long-format documents, in Adobe InDesign, for clients to use in house. This could be a proposal document, annual report, publication, general collateral — we’ve strategically designed and developed custom branded print pieces of all types for our clients.

When wrapping up one of these templated documents for a client, we ALWAYS run through a spell check. Misspelled words mean BIG trouble in the work we do. We take this stuff seriously.

A lifetime with spell check

When using standard spell check, we realized InDesign was constantly catching words that our clients frequently used and wanted to keep. Spell checking was taking so long, it was tempting to bail on the process altogether. We had to closely review every abbreviation, industry-specific term, last name, and even more modern terms that you THINK would be in a dictionary (we’re looking at you … “Wi-Fi” and “email”). Overall, this process took 10–15 minutes — at least. As you can imagine, it would be utter torture to endure this process multiple times throughout the life of a project.

Efficiency is top of mind for us at The Creative Department. We value craftsmanship, detail-oriented work, and going the extra mile if it means a high-quality product for our clients. If our client is using this template as the basis for hundreds of documents, how much time could we save them by addressing this annoying spell check process?

Enter: custom user dictionaries

Could it be? A light at the end of the eternally long and drawn out spell check tunnel? YES! IT IS! Now introducing: custom user dictionaries for InDesign.

Alongside InDesign’s standard user dictionary, it’s possible to create a list of unique words for spell check to ignore. It’s also possible to save this list as a new dictionary that complements the user’s standard dictionary.

Do you know what this means?

About 80% of the words that spell check historically flagged were correctly used, per client standards, just not recognized in a standard dictionary. If our spell check process took 10 minutes for one run, our use of a custom dictionary could save 80% OF THE OVERALL TIME it takes to spell check. Multiply that by 100 documents built off an original template, and that is an extra Friday you could spend on a beach somewhere instead of spell checking.

A custom dictionary could save 80% of the overall time it takes to spell check.
About custom user dictionaries

Individually, user dictionaries can be created and maintained by one user. While the “dictionary keeper” edits and updates the custom dictionary, everyone (using a shared server) can access the dictionary as a read-only file. The file can be loaded into each user’s InDesign program, and once the new dictionary is linked, it will update (contingent on relaunching the program or “refreshing” all text, using Command+Option+/ keyboard shortcut).

Already have a word bank of company lingo? We can quickly generate a new dictionary with that list. Starting from scratch? That works too. Bonus: Once the new dictionary is established, it’s easy to export. That means you can import it into other applications, like Microsoft Word.

The real win

What it really comes down to, is that one small consideration for our clients led to a high-quality, more efficient work product. A spell check process on a long-format document might seem like a tiny, insignificant detail. But little efficiencies can add up in big ways. And it’s our pleasure to work with our clients in the biggest and littlest of ways to produce effective work that makes us all proud.

Curious how we can work efficiently for you? Give us a call or email us today. We can talk about incorporating strategies, like custom user dictionaries, into your unique company documents.

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