Being Politically Correct in MS Word

Dennis Faas's picture

Sometimes you want to be careful to use gender-neutral words in your documents. Word's grammar checker offers an option that will underline words that violate this gender neutrality with a green squiggly line, similar to what it does for sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and other grammar misfits.

To ask Word to check for gender-specific terms such as 'policeman', follow the steps below:

In Word 2002/2003:

  1. Choose Tools | Options from the main menu.
  2. Go to Spelling & Grammar tab and look for the Grammar section.

In Word 2007:

  1. Click on the Office button.
  2. Choose Word Options from the bottom of the large dialog that opens.
  3. In the Word Options dialog, click on Proofing in the left-hand list.
  4. On the right-hand side, look for the When correcting spelling and grammar in Word section.
  5. Check the Check grammar as you type box and the Check grammar with spelling box, if they are not currently checked.
  6. In the Writing style drop-down menu, choose the Grammar only option.
  7. Click the Settings button by the drop-down menu.
  8. Word shows the Grammar Settings dialog box.
  9. You will find the Style section about half way down the dialog box.
  10. Check the option marked Gender-specific words.
  11. Click OK.
  12. Click the Recheck Document button (Word 2007) to find gender-specific words in your current document.
  13. Click OK.

You can also click OK twice to return to your document without rechecking your document.

Now that should underline words that refer to a specific gender. It will not find him and her or he and she, but instead words that include a gender reference, such as the aforementioned 'policeman'.

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