Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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 Checking Only Checking Grammar.

Spell Checking Only Checking Grammar

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 24, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Janelle is having some trouble with her spell checking. She has checked all the settings in Word and they are all as they should be—language set to English, proofing enabled, etc. The problem is that Word only checks grammar and punctuation, not the actual spelling. Janelle wonders what could be causing this condition.

The resolution to this problem is probably going to take a bit of detective work. The first thing to determine is whether the problem occurs with all documents or with only some of your documents. If it happens with some documents, then it may be that the documents themselves are the cause of the problem. You'll want to check to make sure that the documents have the language properly set for each paragraph. For example, if the language for the paragraphs is set to (say) German and you don't have the German proofing tools fully installed, then you won't get the results you want.

If the problem occurs with all documents, then you'll want to check (once again) all the configuration settings in Word. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.) At the left side of the dialog box click Proofing. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Proofing options of the Word Options dialog box.

You'll probably want to make sure that the first four check boxes are marked as shown in the screen shot. Also, the bottom two check boxes should be cleared. If these settings are correct and you still have the problem, then it is possible that your dictionary file has somehow been deleted. If you run the Office installer program, you can reinstall the support files that Word needs to run the spelling check.

Finally, if you continue to have woes with spell checking, you might find this article helpful:

https://www.timeatlas.com/word-spell-check-not-working/

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11793) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Spell Checking Only Checking Grammar.

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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