I recently worked with a document that had been passed around to different offices, and been through many different versions of Microsoft Word. This 80+ page document had been reviewed, commented, track-changed, approved and basically been through the digital wringer. Right when we thought we were finished with it and it was the final version, someone with a keen eye (as much as it pains me to admit, it was not me) noticed this:


Hey, everyone makes mistakes, and especially as fast as we type these days, it’s no biggie. But this sent me into a panic. How many more words were misspelled in these 80 pages? Am I going to have to revert to the draconian method of manually proofreading? I thought, there has got to be a better way. And the Microsoft Knowledge Base delivered.

There are lots of ways to troubleshoot this type of problem, according to Microsoft. I’m documenting my example here in the hopes that it helps you better understand how to apply these troubleshooting steps to your own document!

My first inclination was to check the language in the document settings. I’ve found that saving a document in many different versions of Microsoft Word can sometimes cause the default language settings to become corrupted or disappear altogether. But, this document’s language seems to be fine, it’s set as default to English.


Next up, I checked on the setting for what is called the proofing language, the language that the spell checker uses to proof your document. This is located in the Review tab of the ribbon, within the language group.


AHA! Look what’s checked! “Do not check spelling or grammar.” No, please do!! I unchecked that box and waited for those red squiggly underlines to come back. They didn’t. Visable is still not a word as far as I am aware.


So my next step was to select all of the text in the document, using the Ctrl+A keys. Then I looked at the proofing language again:


That box looks different! It’s neither checked nor unchecked. So I checked it, then unchecked it, to clear the checkbox. Aaaaand still no “visable” red lines. What is going on?

So I tried this:

  • Select all text using Ctrl+A Keys
  • Click on Proofing Language >> Set Proofing Language
  • Click English (United States) under the Mark Selected Text as menu
  • Check and then uncheck the “Do not check spelling or grammar” box


Et voila! Word is telling me what I knew all along:


This also re-enabled the grammar checker, as you can see the blue underlining in the screen capture. I was inordinately pleased to find a few more misspellings in this document, now that they’re easy to find!

If you ever find yourself with a document without its spellcheck safety net, hopefully these steps will help you to catch your mistakes! If all else fails, you can always sit down with a hard copy and red pen, and proofread the old-fashioned way!

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