Skip to content

Control Contractions in Microsoft Word for Windows / Mac

Deep inside Microsoft Word’s (Windows/Mac) grammar checks are some detailed settings like one to look for contractions such as:  I’m, you’re, shouldn’t, couldn’t and haven’t.

These contractions are normal and accepted by Word 2016 Windows/Mac in it’s standard settings but you can change that.

Formal Language, Consider avoiding contractions

You’ll see a warning ‘Formal Language’ and ‘Consider avoiding contractions’.

Why does Microsoft Word have a Contractions choice?

More formal documents and standards might disapprove of contractions so Word has an option to check for them.

Certain workplaces or very formal style guides consider contractions to be disallowed or at least discouraged. This option makes life easy for those folks.

If you or your bosses think contractions are fine, just leave Word alone and it’ll accept them

Grammar gets a Brown Squiggly

With the Contractions check on, they’ll get brown dots underneath.

Right-click to see the suggested change or tell Word to ignore it.

How to enable contraction checks in Microsoft Word 2016:

  • Click the “File” tab on the Microsoft Word menu. Select “Options” from the list displayed. The option sits at the bottom left corner of the menu.

  • Click the ‘Proofing’ category in the left sidebar of the Word Options window.

  • Scroll down to ‘Writing Style’ under the “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word” section.

Under the Grammar Settings window scroll down to Formal Language and check the “Contractions” option.

Check ‘Contractions’ if you want Word to show a warning for contractions.

The default is UNchecked.

Don’t forget to click ‘OK’ to save the changes you just made.

It can take Word a little while to recheck a document and make the new settings appear.  Restart Word and reopen documents, if necessary.

Word 2016 for Mac – Contractions

It’s the same setting but located at Word | Preferences | Spelling and Grammar | Writing Style | Settings | Grammar or Grammar & More then scroll down to near the end for  Contractions

Warning: Word grammar settings!

Our usual warning about any Word Grammar setting.  These settings apply to Word entirely, not to individual documents or even templates.

In Microsoft’s world, the same grammar settings apply to all your documents.  That’s ridiculous but it’s what we’re stuck with.

Stop Word’s grammar ‘help’ once or always
More changes for Word’s Spelling and Grammar
Grammar checking returns to Office 2016 for Windows

About this author

Office Watch is the independent source of Microsoft Office news, tips and help since 1996. Don't miss our famous free newsletter.