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

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By Matthew Simpson

Checking for passive voice in Microsoft Word is a simple task that can help improve the clarity and readability of your writing. By following a few quick steps, you can identify and revise passive sentences, making your writing more engaging and direct. Let’s dive into how you can do this.

Step by Step Tutorial: Checking for Passive Voice in Word

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s important to understand that passive voice isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes, it’s necessary. However, too much passive voice can make your writing seem dull. The steps below will help you spot passive constructions so you can decide whether to keep or revise them.

Step 1: Open the Word Document

Open the document you want to check for passive voice.

When you have your document opened in Word, you’re ready to start hunting for passive sentences. Make sure you’re in a comfortable editing mode so you can make changes as needed.

Step 2: Click on ‘File’

Go to the top-left corner of the screen and click on ‘File’.

This will take you to the backstage view where you can access Word’s many features, including proofing tools that can help identify passive voice.

Step 3: Select ‘Options’

Towards the bottom of the menu, you’ll find and click on ‘Options’.

This will open a new window where you can adjust Word’s settings to your preference, including those related to grammar and style checks.

Step 4: Choose ‘Proofing’

From the options on the left, select ‘Proofing’.

In this section, you’ll be able to customize how Word checks your document for spelling and grammar issues.

Step 5: Go to ‘When correcting spelling and grammar in Word’

Scroll down to the section titled ‘When correcting spelling and grammar in Word’.

Here, you’ll find various checkboxes that control Word’s automatic grammar and style checks.

Step 6: Check ‘Passive Sentences’

Look for the grammar settings and check the box for ‘Passive sentences’.

By ticking this box, you’re asking Word to flag sentences that are in passive voice. This will be a great help when editing.

After completing the above steps, Microsoft Word will highlight passive sentences in your document. You can then review each one and decide whether to keep it or change it to active voice.

Tips: Making the Most of Checking for Passive Voice in Word

  • Remember, not all passive sentences need to be changed. Sometimes passive voice is necessary for the context or to emphasize certain information.
  • Don’t rely solely on Word’s grammar check. Always proofread your document yourself or have someone else do it.
  • If you’re unsure whether a sentence is passive, look for a form of the verb ‘to be’ followed by a past participle. For example: "The ball was thrown by John."
  • Use the ‘Read Aloud’ feature in Word to hear how your sentences sound. Passive voice can often sound awkward when read out loud.
  • Consider the purpose of your writing. In scientific or formal writing, passive voice might be more appropriate than in creative or conversational writing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is passive voice?

Passive voice occurs when the subject of the sentence is acted upon rather than performing the action.

Why should I avoid passive voice?

While it’s not always wrong, passive voice can make your writing less direct and harder to understand. Active voice is often clearer and more engaging.

Can Word find all instances of passive voice?

Word’s grammar check is a useful tool, but it’s not perfect. It might miss some passive sentences or flag ones that are actually okay.

Should I change every passive sentence to active?

Not necessarily. Consider the context and whether active voice would improve the sentence. Sometimes passive voice is the better choice.

Can I check for passive voice in other word processors?

Many word processors have similar grammar-checking features. Check the help section of your software to find out how to use them.


  1. Open the Word Document
  2. Click on ‘File’
  3. Select ‘Options’
  4. Choose ‘Proofing’
  5. Go to ‘When correcting spelling and grammar in Word’
  6. Check ‘Passive Sentences’


Checking for passive voice in Word is a breeze, right? With just a few clicks, you can have Word flagging those sneaky passive sentences, helping you to tighten up your writing and give it more punch. Remember, while passive voice is sometimes necessary or even preferable, too much of it can bog down your writing and leave your readers disengaged.

The beauty of Word’s passive voice checker lies in its ability to help you make informed decisions about your writing style. It’s not about blindly following a rule but about understanding the impact your choice of voice has on your writing. By using this feature as part of a broader editing and proofreading strategy, you can ensure your writing is as clear and compelling as possible.

So the next time you’re polishing an important document, give these steps a whirl. See how transforming passive constructions into active ones can breathe new life into your prose. And if you ever find yourself in doubt, remember the tips and FAQs we’ve covered here. Happy writing!