How to Check for Passive Voice in Word: A Step-by-Step Guide

Checking for passive voice in Word is a breeze once you know where to look. Passive voice can make writing seem dull or confusing, so it’s important to spot and revise these instances. In just a few simple steps, you can make your writing more active and engaging.

How to Check for Passive Voice in Word Tutorial

Before we dive into the steps, let’s clarify what we’re achieving here. Microsoft Word has a nifty feature that helps identify instances of passive voice in your document. By following these steps, you’ll be able to locate and revise passive sentences to make your writing clearer and more direct.

Step 1: Open the Word document

First things first, open up the document you want to check for passive voice.

Once your document is open, you’re ready to start the process of checking for passive voice.

Step 2: Click on ‘File’ in the top menu

Click on ‘File’ in the top menu bar of Word to access the backstage view.

This step takes you to the menu where you can find all sorts of settings and options for your document.

Step 3: Select ‘Options’ at the bottom of the menu

In the menu, scroll down and select ‘Options’. This opens the Word Options dialog box.

This is where you can tweak Word to work just the way you like it.

Step 4: Click on ‘Proofing’ in the Word Options dialog box

In the dialog box, click on ‘Proofing’ to access the proofing options.

This step will lead you to where you can adjust settings for grammar and spelling checks.

Step 5: Check the box for ‘Check grammar with spelling’

Under the ‘When correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ section, make sure the box for ‘Check grammar with spelling’ is checked.

This ensures that Word will look for grammatical issues, including passive voice, when it checks your document.

Step 6: Click on ‘Settings’ next to ‘Writing Style’

Next to the ‘Writing Style’ drop-down menu, click on ‘Settings’.

This will open up a new menu where you can adjust the grammar checking rules.

Step 7: Ensure ‘Passive sentences’ is checked

In the Grammar Settings dialog box, scroll down and ensure the box for ‘Passive sentences’ is checked.

This is the setting that tells Word to flag passive sentences in your document.

Step 8: Click ‘OK’ to save your settings

Click ‘OK’ to save your changes and close the Grammar Settings dialog box, then click ‘OK’ again to close the Word Options dialog box.

Your settings are saved, and you’re ready to start checking for passive voice.

After completing these steps, Word will highlight passive voice instances when you run a grammar check. You can then choose to revise these sentences to make them more active and impactful.

Tips for Checking Passive Voice in Word

  • Remember to save your document before making changes to settings, just in case.
  • If you’re unsure whether a sentence is passive, look for a form of "to be" (is, are, was, were) followed by a past participle (often a verb ending in -ed).
  • Not all passive sentences will be flagged by Word, so it’s still important to proofread your work carefully.
  • Keep in mind that passive voice isn’t always bad—it can be useful for scientific writing or when the doer of the action is unknown.
  • Use the ‘Read Aloud’ feature in Word to hear how your sentences sound, which can help you identify passive constructions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is passive voice?

Passive voice occurs when the subject of the sentence is acted upon by the verb, making the object of the action more important than the subject.

Why should I avoid passive voice?

While passive voice isn’t grammatically incorrect, it can make your writing less clear and direct. Active voice is generally preferred because it’s more straightforward and engaging.

Can Word find all instances of passive voice?

Word’s grammar checker is a helpful tool, but it’s not perfect. It might not catch every instance of passive voice, so manual proofreading is also important.

Should I always change passive sentences to active?

Not necessarily. There are times when passive voice is the best choice, such as when the performer of the action is obvious, unimportant, or unknown.

Can I check for passive voice in other languages in Word?

Yes, Word has grammar checking capabilities for multiple languages, but you may need to download additional language packs or dictionaries.


  1. Open your Word document.
  2. Click on ‘File’ in the top menu.
  3. Select ‘Options’.
  4. Click on ‘Proofing’.
  5. Check the box for ‘Check grammar with spelling’.
  6. Click on ‘Settings’ next to ‘Writing Style’.
  7. Ensure ‘Passive sentences’ is checked.
  8. Click ‘OK’ to save settings.


Now that you’ve mastered how to check for passive voice in Word, you’re well on your way to polishing your writing to perfection. Remember, while passive voice isn’t inherently wrong, active voice often makes your statements clearer and more direct. Use the tips and FAQ above as a guide to help you identify when passive voice is and isn’t appropriate. And don’t forget, while technology is a fantastic aid, there’s no substitute for a good old-fashioned read-through to ensure your writing is the best it can be. Keep practicing, and soon spotting and revising passive constructions will become second nature!

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