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How to Work With MS Word Spelling & Grammar Checker (Troubleshooting)

This post is part of a series called Learn How to Use Microsoft Word (Beginner Tutorial Guide).
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You’re going over your report with the CEO and realize you misspelled “recommendation.”

Will she think I’m an idiot? Will this hurt my performance report? Can she still take make my ideas seriously?

Your cheeks flush. Your hands freeze. You can’t breathe. Such a small mistake, but if you make enough of them, they've got big consequences.

Spelling and Grammar Check are Important
Create documents that are free of errors by using Microsoft Word Spell Check and Grammar Check. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Spelling and grammatical errors not only destroy your credibility. They also get in the way of effective communication.

And you can easily avoid them by using Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checker.

The spelling and grammar checker are built into Microsoft Word to help you find mistakes. So, you can correct them before putting your document out into the world.

This article shows you the basics of using Word’s spell and grammar checker. You'll learn how to set up spelling grammar check in Word. It also goes over some of the advanced grammar checker features for Word, and it also includes how to troubleshoot common issues.

Note: For the step-by-step instructions below, I use Microsoft Word for macOS. If you’re using a different version of MS Word, then your screens may look different.

How to Run Spell Check and Grammar Check in Word Automatically

If you’re on Word for macOS, then the spell and grammar checks are probably running automatically. This means that spelling and grammar errors are flagged while you type. On macOS, Word marks possible spelling errors with a red squiggly line and potential grammar errors with blue double underlines.

If not, follow these steps:

1. Opens the Word Preferences Dialog

Go to Word > Preferences….

2. Go to Spelling & Grammar

Click on the Spelling & Grammar button. The Spelling Grammar dialog opens.

Word Spelling  Grammar check

3. Activate Spelling and Grammar Check

Check the buttons for Check spelling as you type and Check grammar as you type.

Word check spelling and grammar as you type

You can also change other spelling and grammar settings in this dialog box.

When you’re happy with the settings, click on the X in the corner of the screen to close it.

Word will now check your spelling and grammar and flag possible errors as you type in your document.

How to Run Spell Check and Grammar Check in Word Manually

You may prefer to switch off automatic spelling and grammar check. After all, seeing your mistakes as you type can distract you from the writing process. 

In that case, you’ll want to run the spelling and grammar check when you’re done drafting your document.

First, make sure your cursor is at the beginning of the document. Then, follow these steps to manually run the spelling and grammar checks:

1. Open the Spelling & Grammar Dialog Box

Click on the Review tab > Spelling & Grammar.

Word Spelling  Grammar - Review tab

2. View Potential Errors

The Spelling & Grammar dialog box opens. Potential spelling mistakes are in red, while possible grammar errors are in blue.

Word check spelling manually

3. Correct or Ignore Potential Errors

Microsoft Word gives you suggestions to correct the potential error. If you want to accept the suggestion, click on the word in the box, then click Change.

Word spell check - suggestions

If Word doesn’t have a suggestion, or you’d like to correct it your own way, type the correction in the box. Click Change.

Word spell check - edit

You can also choose to ignore the potential errors that were flagged. Click Ignore Once to skip only this specific instance of the error. Or, click Ignore All to skip all instances of the error.

Word spell check - ignore

Whichever you choose, Word moves onto the next sentence with a possible error.

How to Use Advanced Spelling and Grammar Check Features

Word’s Spelling & Grammar checker has a few advanced features you can use to improve your workflow:

1. Add or Edit Words in a Spell Check Dictionary

Sometimes Word flags words as misspelled even though they’re not. This may happen with jargon that’s specific to your industry, less frequently used words, and proper names. If you’ll be using these words often, you’ll want to add them to the Spell Check Dictionary on your computer. This way, Word recognizes these words and will stop flagging them as potential errors.

You've got three options to do that:

Option 1. If Spell Check Is on as You Type

When a word is flagged as a potential error, right-click on the word then click Add to Dictionary.

Word Add to Dictionary

Option 2. When Spell Checking Manually

If the word was flagged while you’re checking manually, click on the Add button.

Word add words to Spell Check Dictionary

Option 3. Through Word Preferences

Go to Word > Preferences... > Spelling & Grammar.

Word Spelling  Grammar preferences

From the Spelling Grammar dialog, click Dictionaries…. 

Word Custom Dictionary for Spell Check

The Custom Dictionaries dialog pops up. Click Edit

Word Edit Custom Dictionaries

The File Conversion - Custom Dictionary dialog opens. Click OK.

Word Custom Dictionaries

Another document opens with your custom words. Add new words or edit the existing ones as you see fit. Note that the words are in alphabetical order. 

Word - Add or edit words in Custom Dictionary

Save and close the Custom Dictionary.

Word - Custom Dictionary - Save changes

2. Using AutoCorrect

AutoCorrect is another feature in Word that can streamline your workflow. Use it to correct errors you frequently make, or to skip having to perform certain tasks. For example, set up AutoCorrect to automatically capitalize the first letter of each sentence. 

Here’s how to do that:

1. Go to Word > Preferences... > AutoCorrect

Word AutoCorrect - Preferences

The AutoCorrect dialog opens.

2. Choose the AutoCorrect Settings You Want to Apply

Word - AutoCorrect settings

Check the button for Automatically correct spelling and formatting as you type. Check or uncheck specific items as you wish. Note that this is where you can create shortcuts for emoticons and symbols.

When you’re done, click on the X in the corner of the dialog box to close it. Word will now AutoCorrect misspelled words as you type.

3. Grammar and Writing Style Settings

Refine how Word identifies grammar mistakes by tweaking the grammar settings. 

Not only that, Word can even make you a better writer! How? By flagging weaknesses in your writing style. Specify which writing style best practices you want Word to check, such as clarity, conciseness, and inclusiveness.

Note: Some of these settings are available only with an Office 365 Subscription.

Follow these steps:

1. Open the Spelling & Grammar dialog.

Go to Word > Preferences… > Spelling & Grammar.

Word Spelling  Grammar check preferences

2. Go to Writing Style Settings.

On Writing style: Grammar, click Settings….

Microsoft Word Writing Style Settings

The Grammar Settings dialog opens.

3. Choose Your Grammar and Style Options

MS Word - Grammar and style options

Check or uncheck items under Grammar and style options. You can choose between Grammar and Grammar & Refinements. The only difference is that the Grammar & Refinements mode has Wordiness and Nominalizations checked.

Scroll down to see the entire list. The Microsoft Office website has a detailed explanation of each option. Set how Word checks Punctuations Required With Quotes and Space Between Sentences.

When you’re happy with the settings, click OK.

4. Spelling and Grammar Check in a Different Language

Occasionally you may use pieces of text in a language different from the default language setting in your document. Change the language of the dictionary Word uses for its spelling and grammar check by following these steps:

Select the text that’s in a different language.

1. Click Review > Language

Word - Review Language

2. Select the Language You Want to Use

MS Word Language

Scroll down to find the language you wish to use. Click on it to select it, then click OK.

3. Change the Default Language

At this point, you can also change the default language Word uses for the entire document. Click on Default….

MS Word - How to change default language

When prompted whether you want to change the default language, click Yes.

Default language in Word

Common Problems with Grammar Check and Spell Check in Word and How to Fix Them

What if the Microsoft Word spell check or grammar check is not working?

Sometimes spell and grammar check in Word don’t work the way you expect them to. Below are some common problems and the most likely fix for each one:

Problem: Word Isn’t Flagging a Misspelled Word

Possible Cause 1: You may have inadvertently added a misspelled word into your custom dictionary.

Fix: Edit the custom dictionary and delete the misspelled word. Follow the steps outlined above for how to edit words in a Spell Check dictionary.

Possible Cause 2: The wrong dictionary is being applied to the text or document.

Fix: Under the Review tab, click on Language, and make sure the correct language is selected.

Problem: Spelling and Grammar Check Aren’t Running Automatically

Cause: The boxes for Check spelling as you type and Check grammar as you type are unchecked.

Fix: Go to Word > Preferences... > Spelling & Grammar and check the boxes for Check spelling as you type and Check grammar as you type.

Microsoft Word spell check not working

Word Templates: Another Helpful Tool for Your Word Workflow

Another way to make a good impression with your Word document is by using a professionally designed Word template. This way, the hardest design decisions are already made for you. This means you can focus on the actual content of your document and save time on its design and layout.

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Your Envato Elements subscription gives you unlimited downloads of Word templates and everything else you need to create an impressive document.

If you want to be able to download an unlimited number of Word templates, then a good source for you is Envato Elements. For a small, fixed subscription fee, download as many templates you want—along with fonts, photos, icons, and other ingredients you need to make effective and attractive documents.

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Find thousands of Microsoft Word templates on a pay-per-use basis at GraphicRiver.

But, if you only need the one-off template for Microsoft Word, then GraphicRiver may be a better source. You also have access to professional Word templates as well as custom fonts, photos, and other components, all on a pay-per-use basis.

Say Goodbye to Credibility-Busting Mistakes

With grammar and spell check in Word, there’s no more excuse to have careless mistakes in your document. You've just learned how to check grammar and spelling in Word. By following the steps above, you can have Microsoft Word spell and grammar check flag potential mistakes as you type. Or run the checkers manually when you’re done drafting your document.

And make sure to give your masterpiece an impressive design and layout. Use a template for Word created by a professional. Great sources for Word templates include Envato Elements, if you want unlimited downloads. Turn to GraphicRiver, if you want to pay for each use of a template for Word.

These tools not only improve your workflow, but they also help you create documents that uplift your brand, reinforce your credibility, and get you the results you’re hoping for.

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