Word Spell Check Woes

Ever have one of those days where you’re trying to get out an important document, but you find that Microsoft’s Word spellchecker isn’t working? Sometimes you can’t check a specific document and other times you can’t spell-check any documents. Either way, you might try some of these suggested solutions.

I’ve encountered both flavors of this annoyance. In some instances, the problem was my own doing and other times I don’t know what caused it, maybe it was a bad copy and paste day. Usually, I can solve the issue with the steps below unless it’s a protected document.

Problem 1: Spell Check Doesn’t Work for a Specific Document

There are times you’ll find Word’s spell check just won’t work for one document. You can open other files and spell check works. In these instances, the problem probably resides with the selected document language or formatting.

Verify Your Language & Check Spelling Options

  1. Open the problem document.
  2. Press the Ctrl+A keys to select the entire text.
  3. From the Review tab, select Language then Set Language…
  4. In the Language dialog make sure the correct language is selected.
  5. Verify the checkbox Do not check spelling or grammar is unchecked.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Recheck your document.

I wish I could say the above method is foolproof. On occasion after following the above steps, I get the following message as shown below.

Word spell check message about marked text

This message suggests your document still has a section that is marked with “Do not check spelling or grammar“. I don’t know of any easy way to find these marks. Instead, I tend to find a paragraph with a misspelling, highlight it and press Shift + F1.

This opens the Reveal Formatting pane where you can verify your language (1) is what you expect and (2) if the paragraph has spell check turned off. In the example below, you can see the highlighted paragraph is coded not to check for spelling.

Reveal formatting pane showing language  and spelling options

Problem 2: Spell Check Doesn’t Work For Any Documents

This second problem can be a real annoyance with many variations. The suggestions range from easy to a registry change.

Solution 1: Verify the “check spelling as you type” feature is on

To verify Spelling and Grammar Checkers are on,

  1. From the Review tab, click Spelling & Grammar
  2. In the Spelling and Grammar: dialog, click the Options… button.
  3. In the Word Options dialog, check the boxes for Check spelling as you type and Mark grammar errors as you type.
  4. Click OK.

Solution 2: Verify Another Word Add-in Isn’t Interfering

Your problem may be caused by a combination of factors such as another Word add-in. The way to verify this is to see if spell-check works in “safe mode”. Safe Mode is a reduced functionality state where Microsoft Word loads without add-ins.

  1. Hold down your Ctrl key and the press the icon or menu option for Word.
  2. Click Yes when the Safe Mode dialog appears.
  3. Open up an existing document.
  4. Press F7 to run spell check.

Solution 3: Rename Your Word Template

It could be that your problem is tied to your global template which is either normal.dot or normal.dotm for Word 2007. These files are usually found in your MicrosoftTemplates folder. When you rename the template, Word will reset itself to the default settings.

Because your global template file has your settings, I would rename the file to something like normalPRV.dot or normalPRV.dotm so you can change the name back if this suggestion doesn’t work.

Solution 4: Try Detect and Repair

Every now and then, I have the spell-check feature go wonky after some other software update or hardware change. I suspect some registry entry has become corrupted. In these rare cases, you may be able to solve the problem using the built-in Detect and Repair… feature. In Word 2007, this is called Diagnose. Before running this utility, make sure you have your installation media as you may be prompted for a CD.

Solution 5: Rename a Windows Registry Folder

I don’t like giving instruction on using the Windows registry. But sometimes, the solution lies in this area. If you’re not familiar with this area, I strongly recommend you read Microsoft’s Windows registry information for advanced users.

As with an earlier suggestion, I rename the folder rather than deleting it. Some people rely on third-party dictionaries that may use some of these entries. If you find after renaming the folder your 3rd party dictionary doesn’t work, you can revert the changes.

To rename the Proofing Tools folder,

  1. Close Word
  2. Click the Start button
  3. Click Run…
  4. Type regedit
  5. Click OK
  6. Expand the left pane to HKEY_CURRENT_USER | Software | Microsoft | Shared Tools | Proofing Tools
  7. Right-click the folder named 1.0
  8. Select Rename from the menu
  9. Rename folder to 1PRV.0
  10. Close regedit.
  11. Restart Word.

Note: Windows Vista users can skip step 3 and type regedit in the Start Search box

Regedit with proofing tools folder

Hopefully, the solutions provided resolve your spell check problem. As the saying goes, “your mileage may differ” and require a different solution. If that’s the case, I’d recommend these other resources:

Microsoft article on troubleshooting proofing tools