Issues with Grammar and Spelling Flagging Prepositions

Hello! Within the last two to three months Scrivener’s spell check has been flagging the word “of” a lot. Even when I’m using it correctly in a sentence. Am I simply dumb and don’t understand prepositions? Here’s a quote that spell check is flagging:

The fact that it took him six months not to wake up with the sun. Or every ting and tick of the old boat."

It’s weird and slightly frustrating. If anyone could point out my problem I’d be grateful.

– Jessie

  1. I don’t know,… could it be thrown off by the fact that neither of those is a sentence? :sweat_smile:

  2. I can’t reproduce the problem. The sample does not get flagged anywhere (for spelling or grammar) if I paste it into my Scriv.

  3. I would select the text and use Edit > Text Tidying > Zap Gremlins and see if that fixes it. (If the text in question was pasted from somewhere else initially, that is an easy way to get gremlins.)

  4. Is this flagging just happening with the as-you-type check? Or do you also get it if you explicitly call for a check on the whole document? Because on-the-fly spellcheck can throw false negatives, and I imagine even more so if it is doing on the fly grammar checking too.

I don’t know what else to think.

If you use the spell check window instead of the underscoring + right-click approach, it should be giving you a reason as to why it was highlighted, which might (but won’t always) give a clue. Is the underline green or red? If it is green you have grammar checking enabled.

By the way, this isn’t “Scrivener’s spell check”, it’s the Mac’s spell checker. Same old thing that underlines misspelled words in Safari or Notes. Ultimately, if you found a problem with it, you’re going to need to contact them about it.

As Amber says, the spell checker will be native to your machine’s OS. As for your example, assuming it’s suggesting ‘off’, that could be that ‘tick’ is often followed by ‘off’ as in ticking something off a list?

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Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions!


  1. Maybe? But I don’t know how to make it a better sentence. Admittedly, grammar is not my strongest skill.

  2. It’s strange because I’ve run it through multiple checkers with no problem. The only two that flag it are Scrivener and TextEdit.

  3. I did try the gremlin fix, with no change.

  4. It’s flagging it when I use the keyboard shortcut and the Edit menu.

Amber V:

It just says “This word might not agree with the rest of the sentence”.


I haven’t had luck finding anything with my OS settings, but I’ll have to keep digging.


Is it possible reset Scrivener to the default state? Worst case scenerio, I simply disable the grammar checker. It’s so strange because it came out of nowhere in the last two months. I’ve never had it flag before.

Thanks so much for your help!

  • Jessie

Okay, that it is its classic fallback for marking grammar errors in spell check mode. If you see stuff like “they’re” being highlighted that way, even though it is correct, it’s probably just confused by the sentence structure. What I’ve found to work is to add the word to the dictionary as though it were a proper noun or jargon word it doesn’t know. It seems silly, adding a common word, but it basically whitelists that word from ever being classified as “not agreeing”. After some time, you shouldn’t see any of these any more.

Is it possible reset Scrivener to the default state? Worst case scenerio, I simply disable the grammar checker. It’s so strange because it came out of nowhere in the last two months. I’ve never had it flag before.

It’s not actually Scrivener, and the only real control you have over it is the central custom dictionary word file that all Mac software shares, which you probably don’t want to reset. If you do though, it is in your user Library folder, under Spelling. It should just be a normal text file, with one word per line.

It only makes sense that a grammar-checking algorithm might be thrown by the intentional use of sentence fragments (such as the two given in your initial example). Using a grammar-checker when writing non-fiction (that term paper in your Linguistics class) is one thing, but if you have a free writing style in fiction — where everything does not have to be proper — then if you also want to use the grammar-checker, you need to be able to discern which grammar flags to ignore. You need to be able to look at it and say, yeah, I know that is not really grammatical, but I did it for stylistic reasons; moving on! All of which is to say using the grammar-checker for the kind of writing you are doing does not entirely relieve you of the burden of needing to have some discerning grammatical sense.

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Thank you, your whole post was very helpful. I’ll definitely be doing this. I appreciate your continued help!

This is precisely what another friend said, and I appreciate the confirmation. It’s a fiction piece and definitely has a certain style and flow, which is what I’m butting up against when it comes to the grammar checker. Agreed, checkers are usually flawed to a degree and a human eye (or three) will always be needed. Thank you for your continued support.

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Agreed, except …. what you seem to be running into here is not a flaw in the grammar checker. It aims to flag anything that is not grammatical. But to a certain extent you in fact /want/ to write ungrammatically (for style reasons). It is not a flaw of the checker that it can’t tell the difference between your intentional ungrammatical moves from the unintentional ones!

Maybe someday an AI-powered grammar-checker will learn your personal style and stop flagging certain things. Guess we are not there yet!


Oh, no. I was speaking in general terms there. Not my issue specifically. AI training would be interesting in the future.

Take care,

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Maybe but here are some cautionary tales on linguistic AI training

Personally I much prefer corpus linguistic approaches to spelling analysis. The COBUILD dictionaries are compiled using a 4.5billion word corpus.