How to Fix It When Spell Check Is Not Working in Word

Get your automatic editor back in action

While Word's spell check works well most of the time, sometimes it can appear to stop operating. Some simple troubleshooting steps will quickly get Word's spelling and grammar-checking tool back up and running. These solutions apply to Word for Microsoft 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, and Word for Mac.

Causes of Word's Spell Check Not Working

There are several reasons Word's spelling and grammar-checking tool might not be working. You might have changed a simple setting, or the language settings may be off. Exceptions may have been placed on the document or the spell-check tool, or the Word template may have an issue.

Whatever the reason, some easy fixes are likely to have Word back to pointing out mistakes in your documents soon.

The spelling and grammar checker may return an error message about the default language or say "Spelling and grammar check is complete" without flagging any errors. You may not receive any message but may notice the tool isn't functioning.

How to Fix Word's Spell Checker Not Working

Follow these troubleshooting steps in the order we present, from the simplest solution to the most complex.

  1. Make sure Word spell check is turned on, the most likely culprit and most straightforward solution. If you haven't enabled automatic spell-checking, the tool won't function as you expect. Also, select the Mark grammar errors as you type and Check grammar with spelling check boxes.

    On a Mac, select Word > Preferences > Spelling & Grammar, and select the Check spelling as you type and Check grammar as you type check boxes.

  2. Check Word's proofing language. Word may be set to the wrong proofing language, causing it to miss errors. Make sure Word is proofing in the correct language, and see if this solves the problem.

  3. Check for proofing exceptions. A setting for Hide proofing errors, or other exceptions, may have been enabled in the document. The spell-check tool might not work as expected if a user has made exceptions for checking the spelling or grammar.

  4. Open Word in Safe Mode. A Word add-in can interfere with the spelling and grammar-checking tool, causing it to work sporadically or not at all. If you start Word in Safe Mode, add-ins aren't enabled. See if the spelling and grammar-checking tool works. If it does, move on to step 5.

  5. Disable add-ins one at a time. An add-in might be the problem if the spelling and grammar-checking tool worked in Safe Mode. Disable add-ins one at a time to isolate the one causing the issue. When you find the culprit, permanently disable it.

  6. Rename the default template. If the issue still isn't resolved, there could be something wrong with Word's global template, which is called normal.dotm. Renaming the template could fix the problem. Word will generate a new default document without any customizations.

    When you rename the normal.dotm template, you lose the default settings you established, including styles, toolbars, AutoText entries, and macros.

  7. Repair Word. If all your efforts haven't resolved the spell-check problem, use the built-in Office Repair utility to fix Word. This tool repairs the entire Office suite even if there's only one application you want to fix.

    This tool is only available for Windows versions of Office.

  8. Contact Microsoft Word. If you still can't fix the problem with Word's spelling and grammar-checking tool not working, visit the Microsoft Word help page. With a searchable knowledge base, community forums, and contact information, you'll find additional help.

  • Why is Grammarly not working in Word?

    If Grammarly in Word isn't working, you may be working in a password-protected document, you may have opened the document in Protected View, or the document is stored on a network. To solve the problem, save your document to a local drive and open it from there.

  • How do I turn off spell check in Word?

    To turn off spell check in Word on a PC, go to File > Options > Proofing. Uncheck the box next to Check spelling as you type. On a Mac, go to Tools > Spelling & Grammar and select Hide Spelling Errors.

  • How do I reset spell check in Word?

    To reset Word's spell check on a PC, go to the Tools menu and select Spelling & Grammar > Options. In the Proofing Tools section, select Recheck Document. On a Mac, go to Tools > Spelling & Grammar and select Reset Ignored Words and Grammar.

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