Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Extracting Proper Words.

Extracting Proper Words

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 19, 2016)

Vanita has a worksheet that contains different combinations of letters in each cell of column A. He is looking for a way to extract the words from that list that are "proper," meaning that they are found in a spell-check dictionary.

Assuming that the column contains only words (no spaces, punctuation, or phrases), you can manually check the list in this manner:

  1. Make a copy of column A into column B. You now have two identical columns.
  2. Select column B and run spell check.
  3. Every time a spelling change is suggested, accept it. When done, you should have column A as your original and column B as a spell-checked version of column A.
  4. In column C, enter the formula =IF(A1=B1,B1,"") and copy the formula down. This formula only shows a word in column C if the original word matches the spell-checked version of the word.
  5. Copy all the words in column C and use Paste Special to paste Values into another location. You now have a list of validly spelled words.

If you need to perform the validation process regularly, you may want to use a macro to instead create your final list. The following macro steps through the word list in column A and clears any cells that contain words not in the dictionary. After checking all the words, it then deletes all the cleared cells.

Sub ExtractDictionaryWords()
    Dim rWords As Range
    Dim rCell As Range

    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    Set rWords = Range(Range("A1"), _
      Range("A1048576").End(xlUp))
    For Each rCell In rWords
        If Not Application.CheckSpelling(rCell.Value) Then
            rCell.Clear
        End If
    Next
    On Error Resume Next
    rWords.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeBlanks). _
      Delete (xlShiftUp)
    On Error GoTo 0
    Set rCell = Nothing
    Set rWords = Nothing
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

Remember—this macro is intentionally destructive in its behavior, meaning that it clears out cells. If you have any need for the original data, you'll want to run the macro on a copy of the data, not on your only copy.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11284) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Extracting Proper Words.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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