How to Detect Passive Voice Using Microsoft Word

If you’re a writer or a blogger, one of the tips you’ve probably heard is to make sure you’re writing in the active voice. It might even be one of your formal writing guidelines.




However, there are times that you’ll miss instances, even when carefully proofreading your work. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a Grammarly subscription, you can configure Microsoft Word to do the job for you. Read on to find out how.


What’s So Good about the Active Voice?

The active voice makes your writing more engaging, concise, and easy to follow. Not only does it help clarify the meaning for your readers, but it also simplifies your writing.

Related: How to Get the Readability Score of Any Word Document

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Using the passive voice isn’t really bad, especially if a statement sounds better that way. Just make sure that you try to keep the majority of your sentences in the active voice.

How to Make Microsoft Word Detect Passive Voice

Many people already use Microsoft Word to write their documents. If you’re one of them, it’s your lucky day! You can easily make Word detect all the sentences written in passive voice so you won’t miss out on any. If you don’t have it, there are several ways to get Microsoft Word for free.

If you’re good to go, configuring Word to detect passive voice is easy. Here’s how.


Detect Passive Voice on Windows

  1. Go to File > Options. Depending on the version of Word you’re using, you might also see it in Home > Options.
  2. Choose Proofing from the column on the left of the Word Options window.
    Grammar & Refinements on Windows Word

  3. Go to Writing Style, then select Grammar from the drop-down menu.
  4. Click Settings…
  5. In Grammar Settings, scroll down to the Clarity section then tick both Passive Voice and Passive Voice with Unknown Actor. Click OK.
    Ticking Passive Voice and Passive Voice with Unknown Author on Windows

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Detect Passive Voice on Mac

  1. Go to Word > Preferences, then choose Spelling & Grammar.
    Spelling and Grammar on Word

  2. Under the Grammar section, for the Writing style option, choose Grammar & Refinements.
    Grammar and Refinements options on MS Word for Mac

  3. Click Settings…
  4. Once you’re in the Grammar Settings window, scroll down until you find Passive Voice and Passive Voice with Unknown Author. Tick them both.
    Passive Voice and Passive Voice with Unknown Author on Mac

  5. Click OK to apply the changes.


You’ll find detected passive voice errors under the Clarity and Conciseness category on the Editor. If you’re using Office 2016-2021 access Editor by clicking the Review tab, then choose Check Document.

Passive Voice on the Microsoft 365 Web App

If you’re using Word for Microsoft 365, go to the Home tab and select Editor. Choose Clarity as a refinement type, then click on the left or right arrow to check all the detected clarity errors. You’ll find the detected passive voice errors here.

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See also: Microsoft 365 vs. Office 2019: What Are the Differences? Compared

How Word Highlights the Passive Voice

There are times that Word resets the grammar configurations. You may need to regularly check these configurations when you need to review your documents. Word will now detect and underline the sentences you’ve written in passive voice, indicated by a blue double line or broken line or squiggle. Here’s an example:

Example of sentence with Passive Voice


No Need to Download Grammar Apps

Word is a pretty useful app with features that are comparable to paid writing apps. However, most of these features are turned off by default, so you need to configure them first to get the most out of Microsoft Word.

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