Grammar and writing style options

Some of the content in this topic may not be applicable to some languages.

The following are grammar and writing style options you can set in the Grammar Settings dialog box (Tools menu, Options command, Spelling & Grammar tab, Settings).

If you are setting options for text written in a language other than your language version of Word, the options may differ in the dialog box. For example, if you're typing Spanish text in an English document, the grammar and style options for Spanish will be different from the ones for English.

Grammar options and what they detect


Capitalization problems, such as proper nouns ("Mr. jones" should be "Mr. Jones") or titles that precede proper nouns ("aunt Helen" should be "Aunt Helen"). Also detects overuse of capitalization.

ShowFragments and Run-ons

Sentence fragments and run-on sentences.

ShowMisused words

Incorrect usage of adjectives and adverbs, comparatives and superlatives, "like" as a conjunction, "nor" versus "or," "what" versus "which," "who" versus "whom," units of measure, conjunctions, prepositions, and pronouns.


Use of multiple negatives.

ShowNoun phrases

Incorrect noun phrases; a/an misuse; number agreement problems in noun phrases ("five machine" instead of "five machines").

ShowPossessives and plurals

Use of a possessive in place of a plural, and vice versa. Also detects omitted apostrophes in possessives.


Incorrect punctuation, including commas, colons, end-of-sentence punctuation, punctuation in quotations, multiple spaces between words, or a semicolon used in place of a comma or colon.


Non-standard questions such as, "He asked if there was any coffee left?", "Which makes an offer a good solution?", and "She asked did you go after all?".

ShowRelative clauses

Incorrect use of relative pronouns and punctuation, including "who" used in place of "which" to refer to things, "which" used in place of "who" to refer to people, unnecessary use of "that" with "whatever" and "whichever," or "that's" used in place of "whose."

ShowSubject-verb agreement

Disagreement between the subject and its verb, subject-complement agreement, and subject-verb agreement with pronouns and quantifiers (for example, "All of the students has left" instead of "All of the students have left").

ShowVerb phrases

Incorrect verb phrases; incorrect verb tenses; transitive verbs used as intransitive verbs.

Style options and what they detect

ShowClichés, Colloquialisms, and Jargon

  • Words or phrases identified as clichés in the dictionary.
  • Sentences that contain colloquial words and phrases, including "real," "awfully," and "plenty" used as adverbs; two consecutive possessives; "get" used as a passive verb; "kind of" used in place of "somewhat"; "scared of" used in place of "afraid of"; and "how come" used in place of "why."
  • Use of technical, business, or industry jargon.


Use of contractions that should be spelled out or that are considered too informal for a specific writing style — for example, "We won't leave 'til tomorrow" instead of "We will not leave until tomorrow."

ShowFragment — stylistic suggestions

Fragments that you might want to avoid in formal writing, such as "A beautiful day!" or "Why?".

ShowGender-specific words

Gender-specific language, such as "councilman" and "councilwoman."

ShowHyphenated and compound words

Hyphenated words that should not be hyphenated, and vice versa. Also detects closed compounds that should be open, and vice versa.

ShowMisused words — stylistic suggestions

Nonstandard words such as "ain't" as well as miscellaneous usages such as "angry at" instead of "angry with."


Numerals that should be spelled out (use nine instead of 9), and vice versa (use 12 instead of twelve). Also detects incorrect usage of "%" in place of "percentage."

ShowPassive sentences

Sentences written in the passive voice. When possible, the suggestions are rewritten in the active voice.

ShowPossessives and plurals — stylistic suggestions

Questionable but not strictly incorrect possessive usages such as "Her memory is like an elephant's" or "I stopped by John's."

ShowPunctuation — stylistic suggestions

Unneeded commas in date phrases, informal successive punctuation marks, and missing commas before quotations — for example, "She said 'He is due at noon.'"

ShowRelative clauses — stylistic suggestions

Questionable use of "that" or "which."

ShowSentence length (more than sixty words)

Sentences that include more than 60 words.

ShowSentence structure

Sentence fragments, run-on sentences, overuse of conjunctions (such as "and" or "or"), nonparallel sentence structure (such as shifts between active and passive voice in a sentence), incorrect sentence structure of questions, and misplaced modifiers.

ShowSentences beginning with "And," "But," and "Hopefully"

Use of conjunctions and adverbs at the beginning of a sentence, or use of "plus" as a conjunction between two independent clauses.

ShowSuccessive nouns (more than three)

Strings of several nouns that may be unclear, as in "The income tax office business practices remained the same."

ShowSuccessive prepositional phrases (more than three)

Strings of prepositional phrases, as in "The book on the shelf in the corner at the library on the edge of town was checked out."

ShowUnclear phrasing

Ambiguous phrasing, such as "more" followed by an adjective and a plural or mass noun ("We need more thorough employees," instead of "We need more employees who are thorough"), or sentences that contain more than one possible referent for a pronoun ("All of the departments did not file a report" instead of "Not all of the departments filed a report").

ShowUse of first person

Pronouns "I" and "me," which shouldn't be used in scientific or technical writing.

ShowVerb phrases — stylistic suggestions

Use of indicative verb forms where the subjunctive is preferable; split verb phrases; and passive verb phrases — for example, "The pepper is able to be chopped without burning fingers."


Wordy relative clauses or vague modifiers (such as "fairly" or "pretty"), redundant adverbs, too many negatives, the unnecessary use of "or not" in the phrase "whether or not," or the use of "possible … may" in place of "possible … will."

ShowWords in split infinitives (more than one)

Two or more words between "to" and an infinitive verb, as in "to very boldly enter the market."

Applies to:
Word 2003