Spell Check Not Working in Word

Ever have one of those days where you’re trying to get out an important document, but you find that the spell check in Word 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 versions 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.

Issue: Spell Check Not Working – 1 Document

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

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 Proofing 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.
Do not spell check option in Language.
  1. Click OK.
  2. Recheck your document.

I wish I could say the above method is foolproof. You would think highlighting the whole document would overwrite paragraph settings on a paragraph level. On occasion after following the above steps, I get the following message as shown below.

Word spell check dialog about marked text getting skipped.

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 is what you expect and 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.

To fix the issue, keep your paragraph highlighted and click the Language: link in the Reveal Formatting dialog. This will open the Language dialog and you can deselect the check spelling option.

Highlighted text and Reveal Formatting options.

Check Your Proofing Exception Options

There is one other setting you probably should check as there is a file option in Word where you can elect to hide spelling errors. This setting is done on an a file by file basis.

  1. From the File tab, select Options.
  2. From the left panel, select Options.
  3. In the Word Options dialog, click Proofing.
  4. Scroll to the bottom area called Exceptions for:
  5. Check to see if the Hide spelling errors in this document only is enabled.
Word Options dialog with Hide spelling errors checked,

Issue: Spell Check Not Working – All 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

This feature isn’t how you turn on spell-check. Instead, it’s an option to see your mistakes as they happen. In some cases, I’ve seen toggling this checkbox “on” and “off” fix the problem. In some cases, those red squiggly underlines might be from the Word Exclusion Dictionary.

To verify Spelling and Grammar Checkers are on,

  1. From the Review tab, click Check Document.
  2. In the Spelling and Grammar: dialog, click the Settings link in the Editor pane.
  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 then press the icon or menu option for Microsoft 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 (Word 2007 and newer versions.) These files are usually found in your Microsoft Templates 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.

If you’re not certain of the location of your template you can press your Windows key + R. This will open the Run dialog where you can enter copy and paste the command below.

Run dialog with command to find files.

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. Perhaps a registry entry has become corrupted. In these rare cases, you may have to repair your installation.

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. Press the Windows key + R.
  3. In the Run dialog box type regedit.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Expand the left pane to HKEY_CURRENT_USER | Software | Microsoft | Shared Tools | Proofing Tools
  6. Right-click the folder named 1.0
  7. Select Rename from the menu.
  8. Rename folder to 1PRV.0
  9. Close regedit.
  10. Restart Microsoft Word.
Windows registry editor and Proofing Tools folder.
Renaming Windows Registry 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:

Teach Yourself VISUALLY Word 2019 (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))
Hart-Davis, Guy (Author); English (Publication Language); 352 Pages - 07/28/2020 (Publication Date) - Visual (Publisher)

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