Rewrite, a new language helper for Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word can now suggest alternative wordings for phrases and sentences in a feature called Rewrite.  It’s ‘synonyms for phrases’ not just single words.

Rewrite is promoted as ‘Say it another way’.  If you want a different wording for an overworked phrase, Rewrite could help.  Speaking of overworked phrases, here’s Rewrite’s suggestions for Microsoft <g>.

Who gets Rewrite?

Rewrite is supposed to be available in Word 365 for Windows v 1909 (build 12026.20264 and later).  However, in practice the release is random. Whether the feature appears in Word seems to depend on various unknown factors (English language only, access to MS cloud servers, relative position of the sun and moon etc.). See The dirty little secrets of Word’s new Rewrite feature

See if you have it by right-clicking on a phrase and look for Rewrite (Preview).

The feature is still called ‘Preview’ even though it’s in public releases of Word, not just Insiders beta versions.

Rewrite is a cloud based feature (Sorry ‘Connected Experience’) so anything you ask Rewrite is sent to Microsoft’s servers.

The service seems surprisingly erratic. All through our tests we occasionally got errors despite being on a high-speed connection in London, UK.

Rewrite “We want to offer suggestions, but we cannot connect to the service right now”

“We want to offer suggestions, but we cannot connect to the service right now”

Using Rewrite

Select a phrase in your document, right-click and choose Rewrite (Preview).

The phrase is highlighted in yellow, temporarily.

Editor pane appears with suggested alternatives below.   Some suggestions are trivial, e.g. changing ‘We are’ to ‘We’re’ or vice-versa.

Hover your mouse over a suggestion and you’ll see a temporary change in the document itself.

Click on a suggestion to replace your phrase in the document.

Read Aloud

Under each suggestion are some ‘Read Aloud’ options.

Read Aloud

Read Sentence with Change

Read Sentence without Change

Getting the most from Rewrite

Rewrite works best with short phrases rather than whole sentences. For example, this famous sentence has no suggestions.

But highlight a few words and Rewrite finds some ideas.  Not very good ideas, in this case.

Similarly, this extremely overworked Redmond sentence yields no suggestions.

But highlight the first phrase only and alternatives are found.  Microsoft copywriters, please note <g>.

Sometimes Rewrite adds a word to the selection to complete a phrase. For example, selecting ‘Now is the’ then click Get Suggestions.

Rewrite extends the selection to include the extra word and searches for that.

Microsoft’s systems are getting not just the phrase you choose but additional, non-selected, words.  Stock and Geography data types do a similar thing; cells around your selection are also sent to Microsoft.

It might seem like a minor thing, but we feel it isn’t properly disclosed by Microsoft.  A reasonable person or company would think that only the selected text/cell are sent to Microsoft’s servers, when they are really gathering more than that.

Report this suggestion

If a suggestion is wrong or ‘inappropriate’, use the reporting option to let the developers know.

These reports are read by real people and are useful but  please be polite and detailed.


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