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When Microsoft Word Won’t Spell Check Your Document

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I had a client recently who sent me a Microsoft Word document that wouldn’t spell check. She even included typos, but Word said everything was fine! It obviously wasn’t.

How to Fix It

If Microsoft Word won’t spell check your document, whether you’re on a PC or a Mac, the fix is simple.

On a PC

  1. Go to the Review tab
  2. Select Language
  3. Click Set Language.
  4. In the Language dialog box, make sure the correct language is selected.
  5. Verify that the check box “Do not check spelling or grammar” is UNCHECKED.
  6. Click OK.

Broken Microsoft Word Spell Checker

On a Mac

  1. Click on the Tools menu.
  2. Select Language.
  3. In the Language dialog box, make sure the correct language is selected.
  4. Verify that the check box “Do not check spelling or grammar” is UNCHECKED.
  5. Click OK.

That’s it. Now when you try to check your spelling again, it should work!

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16 Responses to When Microsoft Word Won’t Spell Check Your Document

  1. Noo October 17, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

    Thanks, that’s really helpful. On my mac, word 2016 would not respond to any request to check spelling until I made the correct language ‘default’ (in tools menu, then language) and that was the only thing that worked. Thanks. N

  2. mackmans January 20, 2017 at 12:59 am #

    This tutorial is very usefull..

  3. mackmans February 16, 2017 at 11:52 pm #

    This tutorial is very helpfull.

  4. Mike April 10, 2017 at 6:32 am #

    I have used the checker on the first 50 pages of 62 fine, now it tells me it is complete but I know it is not I tried deliberate errors but it still thinks it is complete.
    I have carried out the suggestions from this page it made no difference the box was unchecked.

    • Alicia Katz Pollock May 9, 2017 at 9:32 pm #

      Hi Mike, Do you have any styles applied, text boxes, or tables? The spell checker may not work inside them. Also go to Review > Language and make sure the text isn’t set to NOT be spell checked. That happens sometimes. ~Alicia

      • Gai May 5, 2018 at 2:07 pm #

        Thanks! You’re the only one who provided this answer! My spell and grammar checks were no working in a border. Or even when I copied and pasted the text from the bordered doc to a non-bordered doc. When I start fresh with a word doc it works just fine. Thank you!

  5. Farshid Tafazoli June 14, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    To fix it simply press CTRL+A and then SHIFT+F1. In the opened bar on the right side of the document, under the fonts section click on LANGUAGE and from the opened windows choose English (United States) as the default font, make sure that the ‘DO NOT CHECK SPELLING OR GRAMMAR’ is UNCHECKED, then click on set as default. You can now browse the entire document and look for spelling errors as it will be back working.

  6. Tony July 13, 2017 at 9:42 am #

    Thanks. i tried everything except for that logical step of the language settings. You’re the best!!! I wish i had found this before i sent a couple of emails with name spelling errors in them!! Ha!

  7. LizG January 11, 2018 at 8:35 am #

    Thank you!! Fixed the problem

  8. Al Favela February 9, 2018 at 10:39 am #

    I’ve tried all of the above for my Mac and still cannot get Word to do spell check. Any suggestions?

    • Alicia Katz Pollock February 15, 2018 at 9:39 pm #

      Hi Al, without seeing your system and doing some troubleshooting, I can’t help. If you’d like to make an appointment, call me at 503-406-6550.

  9. Jack February 16, 2018 at 8:46 am #

    I’ve noticed, that in some case, the proofing can be overridden with an exception.

    Go to Word Options
    Then the proofing tab
    At the bottom is a drop down that lists exceptions. Make sure it’s not set to all documents or your specific document. If so, then uncheck the Hide options

    Hope that helps

  10. Dawn Oosterhoff March 21, 2018 at 6:40 am #

    Thank you for this post! I am an experienced Word user (Mac-based) and had often come across glitches with the spelling tool. I could never sort it out and hours with MS Office support only resulted in me rebuilding my custom and exception dictionaries. Today, I must have put the right string in the search engine because I landed on your page. Your tips taught me something new and saved me hours of work and frustration. Such an easy fix when you know what you’re looking for. Thank you.

  11. NJtoTX April 9, 2018 at 9:22 am #

    Still not working. Spell check works fine in a new doc or in my own docs. But I’m on a PC (Word 2016(, and all the files I am working on were created on a Mac. Doesn’t seem to be anything about the documents themselves that would cause it to only check grammar and not spelling. No exceptions, nothing.

    So far my workaround is to copy all text, paste it into a new document, spellcheck that, then go fix the errors in the original doc.

    • Alicia Katz Pollock April 14, 2018 at 6:11 pm #

      If you copy it into a new document and save that one instead, wouldn’t that work, instead of going back and fixing the errors in the original?

      Does doing a Save As and making sure the document is a .docx with a new name solve it?

  12. Veronica December 11, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

    Wow, thank you! 2 seconds following your instructions and it was fixed, others have very convoluted fixes that didn’t work. THANK YOU so much!

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