Attacking Passive Words

So, I sometimes use an online service called editminion. You paste in sections of text, hit edit, and it highlights passive words, prepositions, etc etc. It’s not fantastic (I think we could do with a Word plugin that does this at the push of a button – and to a whole doc, not just a section of what you’re working on) but it is useful and I urge all of you to try it.

Anyway, I was using it and I thought “Why don’t I take a pesky word like ‘was’ and set Microsoft Word to highlight every instance of it? Then I had to google how to do that…

(I’m still learning the ropes when it comes to Word, despite over 10 years using it)

Then when I figured that out, I thought “Get a list of all the passive words that drive me, and my editor, nuts, and set it to highlight those as well.”

That’s when I stumbled across this page: http://ryanmacklin.com/2012/05/passive-voice-words/ detailing how to record a macro in Word that you run with one click. It highlights those passive words listed (you can add more).

I think it’s a great idea. It took some by-the-seat-of-your-pants experimentation, but I got it to work in the end. And once I’ve gone through the doc from start to finish, attending to every passive word (and the sentence they’re a part of, don’t forget) I then just de-highlight the whole doc.

I did a test run of this on a section of what I’m writing now, and I’ll be using this method when I do the second draft. I know my editor will thank me in the end.

Here is a sample of it at work. This is all highlighted by the macro.

Picture 2

Give it a try, let me know in the comments how you get on with it. If you don’t want to visit the page, here is the macro code:

Sub HighlightPassiveVoiceMacro()
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("be")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("being")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("been")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("am")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("is")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("are")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("was")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("were")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("been")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("has")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("have")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("had")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("do")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("did")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("does")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("can")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("could")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("shall")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("should")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("will")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("would")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("might")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("must")
	HighlightPassiveVoiceWord ("may")
End Sub

Sub HighlightPassiveVoiceWord(sWord)
	Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
	Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
	Selection.Find.Replacement.Highlight = True
	With Selection.Find
		.Text = sWord
		.Replacement.Text = ""
		.Forward = True
		.Wrap = wdFindContinue
		.Format = True
		.MatchCase = False
		.MatchWholeWord = True
		.MatchWildcards = False
		.MatchSoundsLike = False
		.MatchAllWordForms = False
	End With
	Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
End Sub

Sub DehighlightMacro()
	ActiveDocument.Range.HighlightColorIndex = wdNoHighlight
End Sub
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