How To Set the UK Dictionary as Default Spellchecker in Microsoft Word 2003

Microsoft Word 2003?

I keep having to change the dictionary setting when spell-checking to UK English from US English. It didn’t matter how many times I did that, the spell check would flip back immediately to US English.

The way to prevent this happening is to make sure that the template is itself set to your dictionary of choice. To do this, open a new Microsoft Word document, cut and paste some text into it from somewhere, and then click on Tools/Language/Set Language and select English (UK). Next, whilst English (UK) is highlighted, and the option Detect language automatically is selected, click on the Default button.

You should get a message indicating that the template will be changed and that all new documents from now on will use the UK dictionary by default.

Microsoft Word 2007?

If you need to set the default dictionary for Word 2007, please see the following article about Word 2007 and setting the default language.


  1. http://Rebecca says

    I need to edit documents in UK English. The documents were written in US English. I cannot figure out how to do this. Am using Microsoft Word 2008 for Macintosh

  2. http://Orion says

    Sorry that should be
    *Colour at 2nd step.

  3. http://Orion says

    Well it’s easy.!
    Just follow what I said.

    Open Word
    Type an UK English Word -> like Color
    Then Word will show that word is incorrect
    So Right Click on It Language-> Set Language Now Find UK English and Set it as Default so it will affect to the every word document which use the same template
    Now you can see two language checkers one is US second is UK.
    Now Type again some where another color and right click -> Language -> Now Select UK.!
    Now you are done.!

  4. Hi Big Kate – Thanks very much for adding value to the thread. Liz

  5. http://Big%20Kate says

    Additionally if you are using word 2007 if you set the status bar to display the default language first – you can watch it change

  6. http://Big%20Kate says

    On John T’s original post the instructions for changing options inside word refer to word 2007

    for word 2003 substitute
    3. Go to Start|All Programs|Microsoft Office|Microsoft Office Tools|Microsoft Office 2003 Language Settings and add your preferred language to the ‘Enabled editing languages’ list box if it is not already there. Then in the bottom section of the same dialog box, set your preferred language as the ‘Primary editing language’.
    4. Start Microsoft Word itself and go to the main menu tabs and select Tools|Language|Set language and then select your preferred language and click on the Default button, which will bring up a dialog asking “Do you want to change the default language to ? This change will affect all documents based on the NORMAL template”. Click on the Yes button and then the OK button to return to Microsoft Word

    one of the most effective tools I found was to copy and paste the instructions into a word document to use as a reference.
    When it is in US dictionary it objects to the spelling of customise (the US spelling is customize) if the language changes works the red correction lines will disappear

  7. http://John%20T says

    Changing the default dictionary language in Word.

    After some research & trials, these settings have worked robustly for me. These steps will setup the basic defaults in Win XP SP3 and Word 2007 (they have not been tested on Vista or Win7 or versions of Word, but I would expect them to be similar):

    1. Set your preferred language in the Control Panel|Regional and Language Options|Regional Options dialog
    2. Set your preferred language in the Control Panel|Regional and Language Options|Languages|Details|Default Input Langage
    3. Go to Start|All Programs|Microsoft Office|Microsoft Office Tools|Microsoft Office 2007 Language Settings and add your preferred language to the ‘Enabled editing languages’ list box if it is not already there. Then in the bottom section of the same dialog box, set your preferred language as the ‘Primary editing language’.
    4. Start Microsoft Word itself and go to the main menu tabs and select Review|Proofing|Set language and then select your preferred language and click on the Default button, which will bring up a dialog asking “Do you wnat to change the default language to ? This change will affect all documents based on the NORMAL template”. Click on the Yes button and then the OK button to return to Microsoft Word
    5. As a dutiful Microsoft follower, reboot your machine (some changes in the Regional Settings do not take effect till after a reboot).

    At this point it is very convenient to customise your Status Bar in Word to display the current dictionary language being applied to the current position in your document. Right click on the status Bar in Word to bring up the Customise Status Bar dialog and then click on Language if it is not already selected.

    Word is actually quite smart – you can set different selections of text within the one document to be spell-checked against different language dictionaries when you do a spelling check. It works similarly to the way you can set some text to display as bold, other text as italic and the remainder of the document as plain text. If your preferred dictionary language is, say, English(Australian) then you can have some text spell-checked against that, other text against the English(U.S.) dictionary and yet further text in the same document checked against the French dictionary – without changing your default preferred language setting at all.

    You do this by selecting the text you wish to assign (or Ctrl-A for the whole document) then selecting the particular language dictionary you want to allocate to it from either the main menu’s Review|Proofing|Set language dialog box or from the dialog box that comes up when you click on your preferred language setting displayed in the Status Bar.

    Hope this helps,

  8. http://Peter says

    I had figured this out for myself; it is trivial, since right-clicking on the underlined-in-red US spelled word has only so many options to choose from… Alas that was only the theory. In reality, this method does not work in Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. No matter what I do, it still does not solve the problem. Probably a bug then.

  9. No problem Philip. Glad to be of help.

  10. Many thanks Liz, just shows the simplest answers are usually the best. I played around for hours before finding the answer on your blog. Once again many thanks for posting the solution.

  11. http://Fuse says

    A simple and straight-forward answer to a problem that has been bugging me for ages… now back to my assignment.

  12. http://April says

    Thank you for these instructions. I am a freelance writer and I have been getting jobs from the UK lately. This new company wants me to write using a UK English dictionary. I could not for the life of me find it on my Microsoft works. You found it for me. So many thanks.

  13. http://Amanda says

    THANK YOU!!! 🙂

  14. http://Joanne%20Mullen says

    Great tip, the stupidity of the design of word in forcing you to change the template, rather than simply check the right box on the spell checker is amazing.

  15. Thanks buddy,
    It was really usefull.

  16. http://John says

    Many thanks

  17. http://Prof says

    In my case, everything (Regional Options/OS default language, MS Word etc) is set to English (UK).
    And I can even see English (U.K.) on the Word document taskbar
    when typing, as Rabia mentioned.

    But as soon as I start spell checking any document, the daft thing switches back to English (US)! I mean, the spell checker automatically selects “Dictionary Language: English (US)” even though English (UK) is pre-set!

    I go back to Tools-Langauge-Set Language and English (UK) is STILL selected as the default language!!

    I also noticed:
    1) “Detect Language Aoutomatically” under ‘Language’ menu is greyed out
    2) If I open a blank sheet under Word and I type text directly, English (UK) will be used for spell checking.
    But if I paste text into Word from anywhere else, then English (US) will be used instead!

    Any idea what might be going here, please?
    In particular, how can I get back that greyed option of “Detect Language Aoutomatically”?

    Thanks in advance.

  18. Another typical misguided American. I’m sure you are aware that the UK has been paying huge war debts to the US until recently while people we were fighting received huge payments to rebuild their economies….thanks for your help!

  19. http://Ben%20Dover says

    Cultural Imperialism? And the sun would “never set upon the British Empire”. It’s ironic how presumptive that statement was. Much of the world’s problems today are based upon the arbitrary borders placed by Her Majesty’s engineers, such as the Durand Line between Afghanstan and the FATA area. Most of Africa is in the same dilemma when nationalism, language and resources were contorted into boundaries to suit the exploitation of the Europeans. You may not like the U.S., but you can jolly well get used to Eurabia. Almost without exception, your former colonies had to fight for their independence, unlike the vast number of countries the United States has freed from oppression, and very obviously you’d be typing on a German keyboard were it not for us.

  20. http://Jono says

    Cultural Imperialism, anyone?


    And it’s free

  21. http://Geoff%20Hall says

    Finally! Regional settings, English UK in the Language tab, BUT *US keyboard*! Thanks ANON.

    Now Word *starts* with English UK as its default language. (I had all the other settings in place, but it was the starting bit that was really bugging me.)

  22. Excellent, something which has been bothering me for years! Lucky I decided to type into Google, finally I can spell colour correctly!

  23. http://John%20Twigg,%20Northern%20Ireland says

    I have been bugged for 5 long years by MS XP Office 2003 Word’s prograMMe inability to Spell Check in UK English. Whilst spell checking it insists on US English and when you change the language setting to UK English it will only change whatever word you are checking and then immediately reverts back to US English! Today my son Michael was able to tell me what to do – he admits he got the answer on your web site!! Many thanks

  24. http://anon says

    If like me you want English Spelling but with a US Keyboard,
    you might want to change your regional settings->Languages so that you
    are using English (UK) input language with a US keyboard
    (I removed my UK keyboard since I’m on a US style laptop).

    Then try the above if you need to – it worked fine for me. It kept defaulting to
    US spelling while I was using a default US input language.

  25. http://Martin%20Ritchie says

    I have managed to prevent Word 2003 from using US English but then I open a document from someone who has not set their language and we go round the same process again. I have also found that scanning documents into Word changes the default language. I have found no permanent cure. Does anyone know how to delete the US dictionary?

  26. http://Russell%20J says

    Thanks Liz for the solution. It worked with a couple of changes.

    1) Make sure that all Word documents are closed before you start.
    2) To fix an existing document I did the following
    a) Hit to select the entire document
    b) select Tools | Language | Set Language
    c) Select your language of choice
    d) Ensure ‘Detect Language automatically” is clicked
    e) Click Default
    f) Click OK

  27. http://Liz%20Jamieson says

    Thank you for your comment – I can understand how frustrating that must have been.

    And – on another note, a thanks from me to everyone who has contributed these posts . . . .

  28. http://Oonagh says

    Thank you SO MUCH for putting this up online. I searched out of desperation because I’m writing a thesis and the U.S. English spell check was making life hell for me.

  29. http://Muhammad says

    Thank you so much ( Rabia ). I successfully get rid of American Spelling check. I appreciate that so much. Many thanks. I am really happy for such thing.

    I really can write now: Centre, colour, theatre ….:)

  30. http://Liz%20Jamieson says

    Aussie Dave – Sounds like you are not somehow updating the file. Please check you get the message that suggests you have updated it. Also – check what others have said in comments above. One person at least has posted a different set of instructions when mine didn’t work.

  31. http://Aussie%20Dave says

    Hi Liz

    Tried “Click on Tools/Language/Set Language and select English (UK). Next, whilst English (UK) is highlighted, and the option Detect language automatically is selected, click on the Default button”.

    This works fine until I open a new doccument then it will go back to English US.

    Any ideas?

    Thank you.

    Aussie Dave

  32. http://Bully says

    Thanks Liz – simple and worked a treat on Word 2002

  33. http://Liz%20Jamieson says

    Thanks to everyone who has helped out and commented on the Word problem on this post and the one addressing Word 2007. (See link in main post above.)

  34. http://laiju says

    Amazing, thank U Liz, i work for tech support and had a call with the same issue, i tried many steps in between tried this as well,
    really it fixed this issue.. thanks once again..!!

  35. http://Rabia says

    After struggling with this issue for many years, I found the Holy Grail of getting rid of English U.S once and for all.

    Stage 1:
    First of all, in Windows XP, begin with going to the Control Panel – Regional and Language Settings – Languages – Detail.
    Here you need to select from the drop-down menu, a default input language.
    This needs to be (EN) English – United Kingdom – US.

    If you don’t have this option in the drop down menu, then proceed to the Installed Services option directly below.

    You should see a box with some options and an ‘Add’ and ‘Remove’ button to the side.

    Select Add – and choose English – UK as your default input language in the menu that shows up next,
    BUT specify “US” for the keyboard layout unless you KNOW your keyboard is a different layout. (If you notice your keyboard acting strangely after this change, you will need to set it to the right layout here).

    After clicking OK,you should see the new Installed Service profile in the box to the left.
    “EN – English United Kingdom
    Keyboard layout – US”

    If you want, you can delete the other services, I did, because I never wanted the default to be US…ever!

    Then, go back to the first part, and from the drop-down menu, choose your new installed service, which should be “EN – English UK – US”, the US here is the keyboard layout.

    Once this is done, click ok to confirm the changes and exit the Control Panel.

    Next… open up Search.

    Stage 2:
    Click search files and folders, and from the options below, tick advanced and select “search system files” “search sub folders” “search hidden files and folders”.

    Then search for this document : “” – this is your default MS word template.
    When it shows up, you need only search in the directory where MS Office is installed, right click on the right file which should be around 30 kb, not the other ‘ghosts’ and open it.

    It should open a blank document. Type any odd letter, and check the status bar. If it detects English UK…you’re good, you can move to stage 4, directly.

    Stage 3:
    If the English US is the exasperating result, THEN, to to Tools – Language – Set Language. Choose English U.K as default and click ok to save changes to the TEMPLATE. Next, highlight and delete the letter/word you’d typed before. Try not to use backspace, use the delete key. Once you’re sure the document is blank, save it and exit.

    Stage 4:
    God willing, when you launch MS Word again, it should default to English UK. If it does, say a prayer and damn Microsoft to the deepest corners of the most painful hell and send a few to support


    Yay, I can type ‘colour’ again!

  36. http://Liz%20Jamieson says

    I hoped we could solve this annoying problem by by sharing our experiences. I tried – it seems to have worked for some people and not for others. If anyone else has any good ideas, please add them here.

  37. http://Keith says

    Done it twice, no success. Bloody hell.

    I had it okay — after many many failed attempts to fix it — for a couple of years until today, when the bloody thing decided to flip back to US English again.

    This problem is the most idiotic thing that Microsoft has never dealt with (except in Word 2007, it seems). It’s quite obviously a switch that should be easy as pie, should be a simple option in Tools, but not obvious to the boneheads at MS. No patch, ever.

  38. http://Paul%20Morrison says


    Great stuff. I wish all other so called ‘help’ websites could provide such simple (but obviously important information) as clearly as you have. MS could learn a lot from this strategy!

    Well done and thank you!

  39. http://Senthil%20Kumar%20A says

    Hi Liz,

    Thanks for the support provided. I struggled a bit initially to check spell check in us English and now able to change the default setting to US English from UK English.

  40. http://stephen%20w says

    brilliant – I have struggled with this for years. it is a completely obvious thing to want to do but try using MS help and you get nowhere. I owe you one.

  41. Thanks Liz, That’s an excellent solution. I have put up with this ‘bug’ in MS Word for years to the point of ignoring the American-biased spellchecking. Now thanks to you, I can write in the Queen’s English, (How appropriate your name is Elizabeth!)


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