Changing the Language Settings in Microsoft Word
  • 3-minute read
  • 7th August 2016

Changing the Language Settings in Microsoft Word

The automatic spellchecker in Microsoft Word is far from perfect, but it can be useful for spotting mistakes in your written work. First, though, you’ll need to know how to change the language settings.

This is vital because even regional variations of English can differ in spelling, which means the automatic spellchecker will miss mistakes if the wrong settings are used. Luckily, changing the language in Microsoft Word is a quick and simple process.

Changing Language Settings

There are two main ways to set the language of a new document in Microsoft Word. The first is to use the “Review” tab on the main ribbon:

  1. Go to the “Review” tab and find the “Language” section
  2. Click on “Language” and select “Set Proofing Language…”changelanguage1
  3. Choose the language required in your document from the new window and click “OK”Changing the Language Settings

The second option is possibly even simpler:

  1. Click on the language section of the blue bar at the bottom of your document (this will display the current language settings by default)languagesettings1
  2. In the new window, select your chosen language and click “OK”

Either approach will ensure the spellchecker looks for spellings specific to your region. For American English, the correct option is “English (United States).” If you click “Set as Default,” the same settings will be applied to all new documents.

Applying a New Language to Existing Text

If you’re applying new language settings to an existing document rather than starting from scratch, you’ll need to select the text you want to modify first.

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You can do this by selecting the passages you want to check and using the steps outlined above to pick a new proofing language. This also allows you to use different language settings in different parts of the same document, if required.

Alternatively, you can quickly select all of the text in a document using “Ctrl + A” (or “Cmd + A” on Mac computers), then apply a new language as described above.

Comments, Headers and Footnotes

For reasons beyond the comprehension of mortal minds, Microsoft treats the language options for comments, headers and footnotes as separate from the main text in your document.

The last thing you need is sneaky British spellings in your footnotes!
The last thing you need is sneaky British spellings in your footnotes!

If you’re using any of these features, you’ll need to check that the language settings are consistent with the rest of your document. You can do this either by selecting the relevant text and using the process described above, or by following these steps:

  1. Go to “Styles” and right click the style you want to update (e.g., “Header”)
  2. In the dropdown menu, click “Modify…” to open a new window
  3. In this menu, click “Format” in the bottom left and select “Language”
  4. Pick the language required and click “OK”

This will ensure consistency between different parts of the document in question, which is especially important if your paper includes extensive footnotes.

Comments (4)
nolmendil
26th March 2020 at 19:13
Why, O why, O Why on Earth, does the Word change my input language to Czech, even though the language of the entire paragraph is set to Latin? Is there a single feature designed by Micro$*** that works properly?
    Proofed
    27th March 2020 at 10:13
    I'm afraid we can't offer much help with that! It sounds like a bug, so maybe Microsoft tech support? We hope you can find a solution either way.
Taz Kamel
24th April 2020 at 16:37
This is not a bug. This is in fact a feature. Word has a "detect language automatically" option in the language box. Just uncheck that. Word is unlikely to detect Latin as a language (not many people walk around speaking Latin these days, eh?) so it does a best-effort attempt and guesses Czech as the paragraph langauge. Just uncheck the auto detect option and you're fine.
Pedro Magalhães
19th May 2020 at 19:46
Thanks for the help! I ve been struggling with this for a while now

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