How to use Microsoft Word to check for passive voice

Using active voice in non-fiction and technical writing keeps readers engaged.

Using active voice makes your meaning clear for readers. In active voice, the subject of the sentence directly performs the action.

You could install a secondary writing app to check for the use of passive voice, but did you know that Microsoft Word has the ability to check it for you?

Microsoft Word does not enable the passive voice checker by default. But, it is easy to enable it in the program preferences.

RELATED: Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

How to enable the passive voice checker in Microsoft Word 2015 for Mac

  1. Under “Authoring and Proofing,” select “Spelling & Grammar.”
  2. Under “Grammar,” check the box next to “Check grammar as you type.”
  3. Set “Writing style” to “Grammar & more,” and select “Settings.”

Microsoft Word for Mac Spelling & Grammar Settings
Microsoft Word for Mac Spelling & Grammar Settings

4. Scroll down the list to locate the options “Passive Voice” and “Passive Voice with Unknown Actor;” select the checkbox next to both, and select OK.

Enable passive voice checker in Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word for Mac Grammar Settings

5. Close the Spelling & Grammar box to return to Word.

RELATED: Avoiding the use of Clichés in Communications

How to Enable Passive Voice Checker for Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows

  1. Select the “File” tab and then select “Options.”
  2. Select “Proofing.”
  3. Under “When correcting spelling and Grammar in Word,” set "Writing Style" to "Grammar & more" and then select “Settings.”

 

Windows Word Options

4. Scroll down to locate the option for "Passive sentences," and select the checkbox next to it.


5. Select OK and then OK again to return to Word.

How the Microsoft Passive Voice Checker Works

Microsoft Word will double-underline instances of passive voice, but it does not auto-correct nor provide a suggested alternative. This is where your skills as a creative writer kick in.

Here is an example of the checker in action, using a mockup of these instructions. We see two instances of passive voice here, which I corrected in the final posting as seen above.

Microsoft Word passive voice checker in action
Microsoft Word passive voice checker in action

Remember, using active voice keeps readers engaged! Take advantage of these built-in settings to ensure that you are not using passive voice in your communications!

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