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

Check spelling and grammar as you type

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If the spelling and grammar checking tools are not working as expected in Word, one of several factors could be the cause. While typically only a simple setting change will fix the issue, in some cases the resolution is a bit more involved.

Consider when and how spell check is not working in Word to find the most likely solution to your problem.

These instructions apply to Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, and Word for Office 365.

How to Use Word's Spelling and Grammar Checker

Taking time to ensure you understand how to run the spelling and grammar checking tool can make troubleshooting more effective. Use the F7 shortcut to manually run the tool at any time or by using the following method.

  1. Select the Review tab.

  2. Select Check Document or Spelling & Grammar in the Proofing group.

    Screenshot of Check Document in Word
  3. Choose to correct or ignore any errors the tool finds in your document.

Check the Spelling and Grammar Settings

If Word is no longer checking the spelling of documents automatically, some settings might have been changed that are preventing it from doing so. Double-checking those settings could resolve the issue.

  1. Select the File tab and select Options in the bottom of the left pane. The Word Options window will open.

  2. Select Proofing.

  3. Make sure the Check spelling as you type checkbox is selected. If you also want Word to automatically check for potential grammar errors, make sure the Mark grammar errors as you type checkbox is selected.

    Screenshot of Proofing in Word Options dialog box.
  4. Select Recheck Document if you want Word to perform a spell check on the current document when you close the dialog box.

  5. Select OK to apply any changes and to close the dialog box.

Check the Language Settings

Another place to check for potentially incorrect settings is in the Language settings. Not only is there an option to disable the spell check feature, but also choosing a different region might cause the spell check tool to miss spelling mistakes. For instance, if you're in the U.S. but selected UK English, Word would overlook spellings such as "colour"

  1. Place the cursor anywhere inside the document you want to check and press Ctrl+A to select the entire document.

  2. Select the Review tab, then select the Language drop-down in the Language group.

    Screenshot of Language drop-down list
  3. Select Set Proofing Language. The Language dialog box will open.

  4. Select the language you want to use in the list of languages. Make sure you select the correct region, if applicable.

  5. Select Do not check spelling or grammar to clear the accompanying checkbox.

    Screenshot of Language dialog box
  6. Select OK to apply the changes and close the dialog box.

  7. Press F7 in the document to test the spelling and grammar checking tool. If it works, return to the Set Proofing Language setting, make sure the desired language is still selected, then select Set As Default in the lower-left side of the dialog box.

Check for Exceptions

If exceptions have been made for checking the spelling or grammar on the current document (or other documents), the spell check tool might not work as expected. Looking at this setting might help you fix the issue.

  1. Select File > Options. The Word Options window will open.

  2. Select the Proofing tab on the left side of Word Options.

  3. Make sure all checkboxes are cleared in the Exception for section at the bottom of the window.

    Screenshot of Exceptions For in Word Options
  4. Select OK.

Enter Microsoft Word Safe Mode

Another add-in in Word could be interfering with the spelling and grammar checking tool, causing it to work sporadically or not at all. You can test this by starting Word in safe mode, in which Word loads without any add-ins enabled.

  1. Hold down the Ctrl key and select the Word icon on your desktop or in your program files.

  2. Select Yes on the Safe Mode dialog that appears, asking if you want to start Word in safe mode.

  3. Open an existing document and press F7 to run spell check. If it works, exit Word and reopen it as usual.

  4. Open the existing document again.

  5. Disable add-ins one at a time.

  6. Select File > Options > Add-Ins.

  7. Select an add-in type in the Manage list, then select Go.

    Screenshot of View and Manage Add-ins window
  8. Clear the checkbox next to an add-in you want to disable and select OK to apply the changes and close the dialog box.

  9. Test the spell check tool each time.

  10. When the spelling checker works as expected after you disable an add-in, you have likely found the culprit. Enable any of the add-ins you previously disabled and exit Word Options.

Rename the Default Template

If the issue is still not resolved, it could be tied to the global template your Word application uses to create new documents. By renaming the current template, which is called "normal.dotm," you could resolve the problem. Word will generate a new default document without any customizations attached to it.

When you rename the normal.dotm template, any custom default settings you established will be lost. This includes styles, toolbars, AutoText entries, and macros.

  1. Exit Word.

  2. Press Windows Key+E to open the File Explorer window.

  3. Go to C:\Users\user name\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates.

  4. Locate and right-click normal.dotm, then select Rename.

    Screenshot of Rename in right-click menu for normal.dotm
  5. Enter a new name in the file name box, such as "oldnormal" or "normalold."

  6. Press Enter.

  7. Restart Word. Open an existing document or type text with intentional misspelled words. Press F7 to test the spell check tool.

Repair Word

If all of your efforts have still not resolved spell check not working in Word, you can use the built-in Office Repair utility to fix Word. The method you use depends on the Windows version you are using.

Repair Outlook 2016, 2013 or 2010 in Windows 10

Each version of Windows is slightly different. Here's how to repair Microsoft Outlook in Windows 10:

  1. Close all Microsoft Office applications.

  2. Type Apps & Features into the Windows search box.

  3. Select Apps & Features.

  4. Find and select Microsoft Office in the list of installed apps and features.

  5. Select Modify.

  6. Select Yes if a user account control window appears.

  7. Select Online Repair, then select Repair.

  8. Restart Word when the repair process is complete.

Repair Word 2016, 2013 or 2010 in Windows 8

  1. Close all Microsoft Office applications.

  2. Right-click the Start button and select Control Panel.

    Make sure Category is selected in the View By list.

  3. Select Uninstall a Program under Programs.

  4. Right-click Microsoft Office, then select Change.

  5. Select Online Repair if it's available (this depends on the type of Microsoft Office you have installed).

  6. Select Repair, then select Yes if a user account control window appears.

  7. Restart Word when the repair process is complete.

Repair Word 2016, 2013 or 2010 in Windows 7

  1. Exit all Microsoft Office applications.

  2. Click the Start button.

  3. Click Control Panel.

    Make sure Category is selected in the View By list.

  4. Click Uninstall a Program under Programs.

  5. Click Microsoft Office from your list of programs, then click Change.

  6. Click Online Repair if it is available.

    This depends on the type of Microsoft Office you have installed. If it is not available, continue to the next step.

  7. Click Repair.

  8. Click Yes if a user account control window appears.

  9. Restart Word when the repair process is complete.