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

Get your automatic editor back in action

Microsoft Word is a powerful word processor used in offices and homes everywhere. One of its most important features is its spelling and grammar-checking tool, which saves many documents from embarrassing mistakes. While this function works well most of the time, sometimes it can appear to stop operating. Some simple troubleshooting steps will likely get Word's spelling and grammar-checking tool back up and running quickly.

These troubleshooting steps apply to Word for Microsoft 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, and Word for Mac.

Person using laptop with Microsoft Word spell-check on bed next to notebook and headphones
Fernando Hernandez / Unsplash

Causes of Word's Spell Check Not Working

There are several reasons Word's spelling and grammar-checking tool might not be working. A simple setting might have been changed, 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 involved measures.

  1. Make sure the Check Spelling as You Type setting is enabled. This is the most likely culprit and simplest 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 right 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 exceptions have been made 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. If the spelling and grammar-checking tool worked in Safe Mode, an add-in might be the problem. 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 resolve the problem. Word will generate a new default document without any customizations.

    When you rename the normal.dotm template, you lose the custom 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 repairs the entire Office suite even if there's only one application you want to repair.

    This tool is only available for Windows versions of Office.

  8. Contact the Microsoft Word help and learning website. 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 knowledgebase, community forums, and contact information, you'll find additional help.