Stop Word’s grammar ‘help’ once or always

Despite appearances, Microsoft Word’s Grammar and Style checks are not compulsory. There are simple but somewhat hidden controls to turn off the blue underline or dots for selected tests.

This article explains how to selectively turn of Microsoft Word’s “Grammar and Refinements” checks either once only or for all your documents. Over time you can stop warnings about things that don’t apply to your writing.

We have sympathy with this Word user who writes to us:

“… as for the blue grammar lines, I get FURIOUS about a machine thinking it can write better than me after 25 years in the biz… yes, it appears to be in the passive voice because I’VE CHOSEN TO USE THE PASSIVE VOICE!”

Don’t think that a blue underline in Word is necessarily your fault because Word grammar checks aren’t always appropriate.

The defaults are inclined to business writing but don’t always apply to the much wider range of writing styles that real people use.

Five ways to control grammar and style/refinement checks

There are, at least, five ways to control the grammar and style checks that appear in your documents. 

We’re going to focus on how to disable specific grammar and style checks, as they appear in a document. In other words, the first two of these choices:

  1. Not apply a grammar/style check to just one sentence or phrase (aka Ignore)
  2. Tell Word to stop a check appearing in future in any document (aka Stop checking for this)
  3. Stop Spelling and Grammar checks per paragraph or Style.
  4. Disable either all Spelling or all Grammar checks for a single document
  5. Go to the long list and choose which Grammar and Refinement tests you want to apply in every document on that computer. File | Options | Proofing | Grammar and Refinements | Settings

Stop Passive Voice or Clarity checks

Here’s some examples of ‘Passive Voice’ sentences taken from Microsoft’s own explanation of passive voice.  Interestingly, none of these sentences are specifically marked as ‘Passive Voice’ in Microsoft Word! Instead, they get a general ‘Clarity’ warning that ‘Saying who or what did the action could be clearer’.

Passive voice is sometimes treated as a grievous sin against god and grammar. But in the wider range of writing, passive sentences have a legitimate place. 

Each detected passive voice phrase is marked with a blue dotted underline, which Word uses to mark any style or refinement problem.

Grammar check menu options

Click on a blue underline or dots to first see the main options:

Context – see the sentence with the warning part highlighted. Click on the little speaker icon (right) to hear it spoken aloud.

Alternative text – Word suggests a better wording for the sentence or phrase.  Click on the alternative text to change the document.  Sometimes there’s no substitute offered.

Ignore – stops that specific grammar/style check on that text only.  If you choose ‘Ignore’ the same check will still appear elsewhere in the document. It’s even possible that another blue underline will appear for another check on that text.

Hidden under the three dots menu are other important choices.

Stop checking for this – turns OFF that Grammar/Refinement test for ALL documents on that computer.  It’s the equivalent of going to the master list of all Grammar and Refinements and unchecking that option. In this case it’ll disable the ‘Passive Voice’ test even though the menu label doesn’t say that.

Hide Context – toggles showing the document text in the mini-toolbar.  We’re not sure why anyone would want to turn off the context line, but you can.

Customize suggestions – opens up Proofing | Grammar and Refinements | Settings list. See below.

Ignore the ‘Ignore’ choice, use ‘Stop checking for this’

We suspect the problem for many people is they are, understandably, choosing ‘Ignore’ thinking that will stop a particular grammar/style check.  But it won’t.

Users need to dig a little deeper, to the next level menu and choose ‘Stop checking for this’ to prevent that particular check appearing again in any document.

Even choosing ‘Stop checking for this’ takes a little while to take effect. If you select that option, it won’t immediately remove existing warnings elsewhere in the document about the same test.  Only when the document is reopened or rescanned with the newly unwanted tests be removed.

Narrow down the grammar and style checks to the ones you want

If you use the ‘Stop checking for this’ for a little while, you’ll narrow down the comprehensive default list of grammar and style checks.  It’ll leave only the ones you want plus some that never appear for your style of writing.

How does Microsoft Word handle non-binary grammar like they?
More changes for Word’s Spelling and Grammar
Inside Microsoft’s “Top Grammar Mistakes” – according to Microsoft