Q: What proofing and thesaurus options are available in Microsoft Outlook 2010?

A: I met an Outlook user who composes her email messages in Microsoft Word, then copies the text to the message body of a new email message. The messages she was creating were fairly significant—about a full page of text in Word. I asked her the motivation for this method, and her answer was twofold.

First, she thought Word handled her frequent saving of her work better. More importantly, she wanted to use the grammar and thesaurus tools available to her in Word. I showed her the Drafts folder in Outlook, of which she was fully aware. And then I showed her that the same proofing tools found in Word 2010 are available when composing an email message in Outlook 2010.

In Outlook, the proofing tools are available only when you're within a composition window, such as a new email message. As with Word, the tools are found under the Review tab in a section of the Ribbon labeled Proofing. (In Outlook 2007, the Proofing section of the Office Ribbon is found on the far right with the Message tab selected.) This is the same place we found Readability Statistics from a previous tip (see "Adding Readability Statistics to Outlook Spelling and Grammar").

If you're looking for a better word to incorporate into your text, highlight the word in question and click Thesaurus in the Proofing tools section. This action opens the Research pane to the right of the new message window. Figure 1 shows a sample of the thesaurus in Outlook 2010. You can right click anywhere in the message body and select Synonyms, Thesaurus to open the Research pane as well.

Figure 1: An email message in Outlook 2010 showing the Research pane (Click image for larger view)

The default reference for an Outlook 2010 US English install is Thesaurus: English (U.S.), but other reference tools are available in the drop-down menu, including Encarta Dictionary. These options are the same that are available in Word 2010. The thesaurus provides recommendations of words similar to a term highlighted in your message. Clicking the word in the Research pane gives a simple drop-down menu that lets you insert the preferred term with a single click.

The user I worked with for this simple option was satisfied that the proofing tools were the same, though she just had never tried them before. She now uses the Drafts folder in Outlook as well to save long messages while she's creating them. It seems users often lean on things they're comfortable with versus testing a feature that's unfamiliar
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.