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Fix Microsoft Word's Most Annoying Grammar Checker Features

MS Word Grammar Checker

As a freelance writer, you would think that I would find Microsoft Word's grammar checker enormously helpful. However, you would be very, very wrong.

As a professional writer, I don't mind notifications that I have inadvertently doubled up a word, or in my hurry to type out text or make quick edits, that I have mixed up my subject verb agreement. In fact, for the most part, any time MS Word notifies me that I have violated one of the "hard" rules of grammar, I make sure and take a real good look, because there is nothing quite as embarrassing as claiming to be a professional while making silly mistakes.

However, whenever Word's grammar check pops up to "help" with some of English grammar's more flexible grammar rules, it is almost always uselessly pointing out something that is both entirely correct, and written exactly the way I want it to be written.

In other words, it just ends up being annoying.

English Language Rules

English grammar can be very complicated, a fact not often appreciated by native English speakers. Ironically, a large number of them manage to break numerous grammar rules on a regular basis in their writing. However, by and large, not many people care anymore so long as the grammar being messed up is not one of the "hard" grammar rules.

Hard Grammar Rules

When it comes to the English language, there are "hard" grammar rules, and "soft" grammar rules.

Hard grammar rules are those that cannot be broken. Creating a sentence, phrase, or paragraph that does not conform to these rules is just creating gibberish. These are the rules that make up our language and give it the necessary structure so that it can be understood by everyone.

These include rules like subject-verb agreement. She plays with the dog, not She play with dog.

Soft Grammar Rules

Soft grammar rules are those that can be broken without being incorrect. These rules have recommendations, exceptions, and ideals that can make language clearer and more understandable, however, not following them does not cause a language breakdown.

The most over-flagged grammar "error" in Microsoft Word is the use of "passive voice" which is said by some to be less powerful and direct than active voice. However, every grammar manual in the existence from The Chicago Manual of Style, to the Associated Press Stylebook, to Stunk and White, all allow that passive voice not only can be used, but is actually preferable in some instances.


Microsoft Grammar Check

Microsoft Office comes with a grammar checker. It was Microsoft's addition to the feature wars between MS Word and WordPerfect after WordPerfect added the much more useful spell check to its product. It has been with us ever since.

However, what started out as a useful way to detect correctly spelled, typos, has grown (as with all things Microsoft) beyond its maximum utility. Today, it flags all manner of grammatical "errors" that if followed to the letter would leave one writing at a fifth grade level.

Fortunately, turning off those grammar checks that are most annoying to expert writers is relatively easy, once you know where to look.


Fix Grammar Check Configuration

To fix Microsoft Word's grammar checker, go to the Options setting. In MS Word 2007, this is found by clicking the Office Icon in the upper-right corner and then, clicking Word Options at the bottom of the window that opens. In older versions it is under Tools -> Options.

Under Proofing options (or Spell/Grammar in older versions) are the settings for the grammar check feature. In Office 2007, click the settings button to open the pop-up window that let's you set specific grammar rules to on and off.

For serious writers, I suggest turning off Contractions (how can you write in a "friendly style" without contractions?) and the dreaded, and often inaccurate, passive voice checker. If you write anything even remotely technical, you may also be better off turning off the "Wordiness" and "Long Sentence" grammar checks. Of course, turning off the first person (I) check is a must if you are going to write anything personal.

If you prefer, you can eliminate the whole swath of "style" checks by setting Word to check grammar only instead of grammar and style. However, I find the other rules tend to pop up much less frequently so that they do not annoy and therefore are a useful tool to ensure that what I typed, was what I meant.

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Stefan on December 01, 2015:

And I thought I was the only one annoyed by a "passive voice" warning...

Michele on July 11, 2013:

"Assuming you are happy to proceed..." That is correct, yes? Word 2010 wants me to change it to "Assuming you is happy to proceed...". Did Word go to the Ali G school of grammar?

Shelley on October 31, 2012:

MS Word doesn't recognize gerunds! It disallowed "interrupts your eating" but allowed "interrupts you eating." I normally work without grammar check turned on, and just upgraded to Office 2010 so I haven't done all the configuration...all the more reason to TURN IT OFF!

John on February 17, 2012:

Sorry, WordPerfect added grammar-checking by including Grammatik

KT on October 25, 2011:

Here's a mystery: why is Word's grammar check prompting me -- in the middle of a sentence -- to "capitalize the first letter in a sentence"? How do I get rid of that to make sure the document doesn't show that "error" to another reader who opens the file? THANKS.

htodd from United States on August 28, 2011:

This is really great post..Thanks

Linda on May 27, 2011:

Useful information and observations.

In the Soft Grammar Rules section, I believe you

meant "Strunk and White" instead of "Stunk and White."

joseph.c from the University of California, Riverside on February 20, 2011:

Good tips. I normally don't take time configure Word because I don't want to spend time under the hood. However, as I am writing more, it's definitely worth the hassle. Thanks.

Beth on October 19, 2010:

This has been a great help! It's been driving me nuts trying to figure out how to change some of this stuff. I still have one problem: MS Grammar catches the word "it's" and marks it to be changed to "its". MS doesn't recognize that "it's" is a contraction for "it is". I unchecked the contraction box but IT'S still doing it. (I hate the word 'it' now." Any suggestions with this?

Backup & Restore Word Settings on April 07, 2010:

Thanks for Sharing information on repairing word.

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