Spell Checker Issue in Word [Mac versions of Office 2011]

There seems to be a spell checker issue in Word where the following error is reported.

On my Mac, this happens most often when I open a file that did not originate from MS Word 2011. If I create a document in MS Word 2011, and leave spell and grammar checks enabled for “as you type” (see below on how to disable this), then I do not get an error.

If you do not disable the options below, then as at the date of this page this error will recur and you will need to shut down the application (force quit).

Disable the ‘as you type’ options

First, in Word select Word >> Preferences and the following window will appear.

Select ‘Spelling and Grammer’

Select Spelling and Grammar preferences

Next, deselect “check spelling as you type” and “check grammar as you type” options (see image below).

Disable the 'as you type' options

Once this is done you should be able to open the document that originated in OpenOffice or any other compatible programme without the pop up warning appearing.

Please note, however, that this pop-up will re-occur if you do a spelling and/or grammar check.

“Repair” a Document

If you want to be able to re-enable the ‘as you type’ options above, you may want to try the steps below, as these have worked for me. However this does not assist with compatibility of Word documents between OpenOffice.org and MS Office.

First, save the document as a docx file.

Then select all the text in the document (Command-A).

Next select Tools >> Language, and select one language for the entire document.

Select one language for all the text

Save the document.

To test if this has worked, try performing a spell check. If that executes successfully, then you can turn on the ‘as you type’ features.

Please note, however, if you open any other documents that didn’t originate in Word 2011, then you may have to perform all the above steps again.

Good luck and I hope this solves some issues.

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Additional Resources


  1. Regiondata says:

    Well written, I just provided this link to our customers, solved the issue perfectly.

    • I’m really glad this could help. That’s what this site is for. :)

      • Thank you so much, I went to system preferences rapidly before the error message appeared as you said and followed your instructions. This really helped me thank you!!!!

  2. Nick WW says:

    My spelling & grammar icon is greyed out so I cannot access the menu. How do I un-grey the icon?

  3. In your post you said:
    Please note, however, if you open any other documents that didn’t originate in Word 2011, then you may have to perform all the above steps again.

    I found a work around, because thousands of my documents originated in an earlier version of Word, and following the above procedure is not feasible every time I open a document created in an earlier version of Word.

    I created a macros and named it AutoOpen the code i used is below. This automatically sets the autocheck to english when a document is opened.

    Sub AutoOpen()

    ‘ AutoOpen Macro

    Dim doc As Word.Document
    Set doc = ActiveDocument
    ActiveDocument.SpellingChecked = False
    ActiveDocument.GrammarChecked = False
    doc.Range.LanguageID = wdEnglishUS
    doc.Range.NoProofing = False
    End Sub

  4. But when the error is reported, we are not allowed to go to word>>preferences. So how to solve this problem? Thank you.

  5. Vanla Duhsaka says:

    Preference is grey even if I Force Quit the same file reopens. Pl help

  6. unfortunately, the spelling grammar feature is not turned on and no matter what I do it won’t turn on.

    • I have added a comment further down this page in response to Dina. Please refer to the link provided there, as the latest service pack should assist in resolving this error. Be sure to turn off your Mac, and NOT just reboot.

  7. James Knight says:

    When i open word, the error comes up but i cant select words then preferences because it wont let me click anything else than ok, when i click ok, in a split second the error comes up again, i cant even force quit the programme.
    Please Help.


    • @James, @ Eve and @Vanla – have you tried starting from a blank document? I found that every time I opened an existing document, all the errors would start again.

  8. Neha Kaul says:

    This really helped. You rock! Thanks :)

  9. George Habacon says:

    You’re a lifesaver! Thank you so much!

    • You are most welcome. Thanks for letting me know that I’ve been of assistance. That’s what this blog is for!

  10. Thanks for the suggestions but I can’t get to Word Preferences. When i open Word, the error pops up immediately and I cannot even open a new blank document. HELP! This trouble started when I tried to review a document on our SharePoint site last week, and since then, every time I open Word its is stuck on that document with the error popping up. I feel like I am doomed at this point! :(

    • Some people have reported that they need to install the latest service pack update for MS Office/Word for Mac. They then shut down completely (NOT reboot), and then turn on their Mac again (I usually suggest waiting 2-3 mins before turning on). Let me know if this helps you. Mac MS Office updates can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/mac/downloads

  11. Every time I open the file with chinese and english text its always a problem.
    Your tips are very useful, it helps a lot. Really works! Thank you so much.

  12. I,ve been having this problem, but now it is solved. That,s because of your tips. Thanks alot. God bless you.

  13. I wanna check the spell of Korean Language with word 2011 for Mac, but it didn’t work.. I’ve tried the tips above but it didn’t work. I think I need some more help, thanks :)

  14. Thank you very much! Your instructions are clear and very precise. Finally, overcoming my nightmare especially file is attached to an urgent email. This is the first time i am encountering this problem. Tried to do software update but it doesnt seem to help.

  15. Worked a treat! MANY THANKS :)

  16. Excellent solution. It works for me. Thank you very much.

  17. Thank you for your post it was very helpful!!!


  19. you are a star thank you and poo bah to microsoft for glitchy software

  20. Actually, I install Microsoft Office Mac 2011 crack. So, I guess “word preference” is not exist. Someone, please help me how to disable this error. It disturbing my work. Thanks

  21. Thank you ! It works

  22. william cooke says:

    where is “spell check” in microsoft office mac 2011?

  23. Hi all,
    I have tried all of the above solutions, including installing updates of Microsoft Office 2011. Still the same problems.
    Any other solutions from anybody?
    Would really love your help.

    • I would suggest going to a forum like http://www.msofficeforums.com. Be sure to include your Operating System information (Mac OSx, Windows, etc AND version number), as well as the version of Word that you are using. This will help members of the forum to help you.

  24. Yeay it really worked!!! Thanks a lot, thumbs up.

  25. Life saver! This issue has plagued a single document for years and selecting language resolved it. Thanks!

  26. I was able to uncheck “Check spelling as you type”, but although “Check grammar as you type” is checked the link is not active (shows in light gray) and I cannot uncheck. Fortunately, the problem seems to have been resolved by the first fix (thank you!), but in case it recurs I would like to know how to deselect Check grammar as you type.

    • Maggie – I’ve noted your greyed out “Check grammar as you type”. What version of Word are you using? I’ve done some preliminary searches and some suggest there could be a corruption in the grammar file. This site (http://word.mvps.org/mac/diagnose.html) has some solutions, but be sure that you ensure that your OS and software has any patches installed prior to looking for any other solutions. I hope this helps.

  27. Margaret Drummond says:

    We have a template we use for writing reports which researchers often copy and paste from other files. Our problem is that the spellcheck sometimes doesn’t work in the document. It is hit and miss … works in some sections and not others within the same document. Any ideas would be appreciated.


  28. THANK U SO MUCH !! really life saver

  29. Singleton Washginton says:

    Kudos to you!
    It was really helpful…
    Sometimes little stuff like this can make even a geek look stupid you know..

  30. Yes solve my big trouble thank you al ot

  31. Thanks u so much

  32. problem solved! Thanks!

  33. Thank you so much… it does really helps, even the service center guy can not figure it out…

  34. Hi,
    i have a way to get rid for those who are not able to create new doc and frequently getting the spelling checker error even after trying to create new docs. Just press “tab” continously and click on “ok” of the spell checker error frequently and meanwhile you can try to close the word after 5 or 6 times trying. See it will work perhaps. It may be more helpful for those who are having racked version.

  35. Thank you! That helped me a lot) still, I don’t really trust automatic spelling and grammar checking tools! can somebody recommend me a professional proofreading tools?

  36. Goood solution

    i tried many proposed solution on the internet and no one work, only your solution.

    Thanks so much 😉

  37. m.rustam f thamrin says:

    thanks a lot, that’s step for solve the problem is really work.

  38. Thank you very much. The solution worked perfectly.

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