How Do I Change Microsoft Word Settings to Check for Passive Voice?

Cleaning up passive voice in content gives it a stronger voice. While you won't necessarily benefit from eliminating it outright, Word 2013 can hone in on passive phrases within your document. To enable this feature, edit Word's grammar settings.

Check passive voice in Word with Grammar and Style settings.
Check passive voice in Word with Grammar and Style settings. (Microsoft)
Step 1:

Click the blue "File" button in the upper menu of any existing or blank Word document. This displays a new window rather than a drop-down menu. Click "Options" on the sidebar to return to the document and open the program settings.

Click "File" and "Options" to open Word program settings.
Click "File" and "Options" to open Word program settings. (Microsoft)
Step 2:

Switch to the Proofing tab on the sidebar, followed by the "Settings" button beside "Writing Style." Scroll down the list to find Passive Voice. By default, Word 2013 enables this but checks only grammar, not style. If the box is marked, change the Writing Style drop-down menu to "Grammar & Style." Click "OK" to confirm the changes.

Click "Settings" next to "Writing Style" to open advanced settings.
Click "Settings" next to "Writing Style" to open advanced settings. (Microsoft)
Step 3:

Click "OK" again to confirm Word's settings. Alternatively, you can check the document right away with your new settings, which will include anything you previously instructed Word to ignore.

Click "Check Document" to review content or "OK" to save changes.
Click "Check Document" to review content or "OK" to save changes. (Microsoft)
Step 4:

Right-click any text in your document with a blue underline. Red identifies an unknown word, while blue indicates grammar problems. Right-clicking the phrase brings up suggestions, if available. With passive voice, however, Word just alerts you to the problem.

Check commas, punctuation and spacing with advanced Word grammar options.
Check commas, punctuation and spacing with advanced Word grammar options. (Microsoft)
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Tips & Warnings

  • Word's grammar options can be tailored to consider specific guidelines; for example, you can stop checking for serial commas to satisfy AP style in your document.
  • Additional useful grammar features that Word provides include having the program check for one or two spaces between sentences and monitoring punctuation placement around quotations.
  • Word can also monitor first-person usage, contractions and technical jargon.

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