Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Spell Check Misses Misspelled Words.

Spell Check Misses Misspelled Words

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 24, 2019)
This tip applies to Word 2007 and 2010


Barbara related a problem that she ran into with a Word document: She ran a spell check and Word did not detect several misspelled words. Barbara is wondering why this would happen.

There are several reasons why this situation could occur, which means that you need to do some analysis of the problem document (and Word itself) to figure out what is going on.

If the problem occurs in only one document or with some occurrences of misspelled words in a particular document, then that means that the problem is with the document itself. The most common reason is that the text has somehow been formatted so that Word ignores it when checking spelling or grammar. You can find out if this is the case by first selecting the word that was missed during the spell check. Then display the Review tab of the ribbon and, in the Proofing group, click on Set Language. Word displays the Language dialog box.

Look at the Do Not Check Spelling or Grammar check box to see if it contains a check mark. If the setting is turned on, then Word ignores the selected text when checking either spelling or grammar. Don't change the setting yet; you still have some detective work to figure out the actual problem.

Go ahead and dismiss the Language dialog box for now. You now need to figure out how pervasive the "no proofing" or "do not check" setting is within the document. First check to see if this setting is related to whatever style is used to format the selected text. (How you check style settings has been covered in other issues of WordTips.) If the setting is made in the style, then any other text formatted with that style in the document is also skipped during a spelling check. The solution, in that case, is to either use a different style that allows the proofing or change the style so that the style permits proofing.

If the setting is not made in the style, then that means that someone specifically turned off the proofing for the particular text. While you can explicitly change it for this particular instance of the word, you might need to change it a lot of other places in the document, as well. If you are sure that you want the entire document to be proofed, then you should simply select the entire document (press Ctrl+A), display the Language dialog box again, and clear the Do Not Check Spelling or Grammar check box.

If you've checked the proofing setting in the Language dialog box and found no problem there, or if the problem of missing misspelled words occurs in more than one document, then the problem is likely with the spelling checker itself. In this case, the most likely scenario is that someone was previously doing a spell check on the document and, when the misspelled word was presented for review, clicked the "Add" button. This action means that the misspelled word is never again flagged as wrong since it is now added to the custom dictionary on the system.

One quick way to check if this is the problem is to take the document and spell-check it on a different system. Unless both systems share a common custom dictionary or have the same misspelled word in their individual custom dictionaries, you should note that on the second system the misspelled word is properly flagged as misspelled.

If you don't have access to a second machine or if you think both machines may be using the same custom dictionary, then try these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Make sure the Proofing option is selected at the left of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Word Options dialog box.

  4. Make sure the check box for Suggest from the Main Dictionary Only is checked.
  5. Close the Word Options dialog box.

If the spelling check flagged the misspelled words this time, then the problem is in one of your custom dictionaries. You can correct the problem by following these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Make sure the Proofing option is selected at the left of the dialog box.
  3. Click Custom Dictionaries. Word displays the Custom Dictionaries dialog box.
  4. In the list of dictionaries, select the one you want to check.
  5. Click Edit Word List. Word displays a dialog box that shows the words in the custom dictionary. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. Editing a custom dictionary.

  7. Examine the words in the Dictionary list, selecting and deleting the ones that are misspelled.
  8. Click OK to close the dialog box.
  9. Repeat steps 4 through 7 if you have any other custom dictionaries you need to check.
  10. Click OK to close the Custom Dictionaries dialog box.
  11. Click OK to close the Word Options dialog box.

If the problem is still not resolved, then it could be because of some of the other proofing settings on your system. For instance, if the misspelled words that are being missed are all in uppercase letters, then they are not being caught because Word, by default, doesn't proof words that are all in uppercase. Display the Proofing options of the Word Options dialog box and make sure the Ignore Words in Uppercase check box is cleared. If the misspelled words have digits in them, you will also want to clear the Ignore Words with Numbers check box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6026) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Spell Check Misses Misspelled Words.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 3 + 7?

2023-09-26 11:16:35


Hi! Word allows misspelling of certain words, but only when the last two letters are flipped. For example, it doesn't flag "governmetn" as being incorrect. I checked my custom dictionaries, and it isn't in there, so I can't figure out why it's doing this, but it's very frustrating! Any ideas?

2023-01-05 16:20:57


Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to share this knowledge with the world. It solved a huge problem (mystery) that was really becoming worrisome for me. Thank you very much indeed. Much appreciated.

2015-12-29 12:44:39


Hi - and thank you for this article. It helped me figure out, to begin with, that the issue I'm having is not document-specific, but wordwide. But I still can't figure out why Word won't recognise the word in question as wrong. It's not in uppercase or anything - I've tried using the misspelled form in sentences in various ways, and Word (2010) just obstinately refuses to recognise it as wrong. The word in question is Dutch - "letterlijk", meaning "literally". The issue is that when I mistype it as lettelrijk (which I frequently do), which is a complete non-word. It's pretty much comparable to mistyping "literally" as "liretally" or "litreally". I've created an autocorrect entry as a workaround, but it continues to bug me - partly out of perfectionism, partly out of curiosity, partly out of "come the *%!@ on, man, this is ridiculous", but mostly because if Word doesn't pick up on this one, how many other mistakes is it missing?

...Any idea what might explain this?

2015-03-12 22:00:14

Kate Bills

Please work

2014-08-27 10:59:41


Thanks! I never would have thought to look at the "Set Language" setting (and that was the problem).

2014-04-01 15:58:32


My problem is that the spellchecker does not offer obvious alternatives for misspelled words.
For example, it offer "your" but not "you" for the text "oyu".
There are other similar, obvious examples.

2013-10-05 06:42:27


Solved a double-fault Word 2007 spell checking problem in 2 minutes by following this tip. One style was set for "no spell check" for no known reason (this is version 20 of the same document). The custom dictionary was not working correctly, because when I directed "main dictionary only", spell checking started to work everywhere. And, no, the custom.dic was not loaded up with mis-spelled words. It looked fine.

2012-09-24 01:11:43

Shanker. K.Vee.

This tip will help to reduce the arbitrary functioning of Spell Checker.I wish, we could control the grammar side of it too. In fact, it is the grammar check that many times functions badly.I'm unhappy that Microsoft doesn't provide 'Ignore All' and 'Add to Dictionary' in such cases.

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