Language in Word

Mark any text written in a language different from your document’s default language.

Why Language Matters

Screen readers use a document’s language to determine how to pronounce words. Also, Office uses that language to check spelling. It will mark foreign words as misspelled and screen readers will say that the words are misspelled, even though they aren’t. Even British spellings, such as “colour,” will be considered wrong unless you mark them as English (UK) or English (United Kingdom).

You can set a default language for the whole document. You can also set a different language for passages within that document.

What is the Default Language?

Microsoft Office bases its default language on your operating system. If your computer is configured for use in the United States, your default language in Office documents will be English (US) or English (United States).

To see which language Word is using in your document, select Word’s “Review” tab, then click “Language.”

On a Mac, you will immediately see which language is selected. You can select a different language and click “Default” to change the whole document to that language.

In Word for Windows, after you have clicked the “Language” icon on the ribbon, click “Language Preferences” to see what language is selected, or to change the default language.

Change the Language for a Selection

If you have a Spanish passage in a document that is otherwise in English, for example, here is how to mark that passage.

  1. Select the passage.
  2. Click “Review,” to show the Review Ribbon. Then, click “Language.”
  3. In Word for Windows, click “Set Proofing Language” to bring up the list of languages. (On a Mac, you’ll have the list of languages as soon as you click the Languages icon.)
  4. Select the language for the text you selected and click “OK.”