Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Searching for Adjectives and Adverbs.

Searching for Adjectives and Adverbs

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 27, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


The English language is made up of many different types of words. There are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and so on, each filling a specific purpose in the grammar of a sentence. (Some say that English is a hard language to learn. I always answer that it didn't seem too hard to me—in fact, I learned it as a child. :>))

In analyzing a document, you may want to find out how many of a particular type of word is used within a sentence. For instance, you might want to determine how many adjectives and adverbs there are in your document. Unfortunately, Word does not provide a built-in means to locate such words.

Adjectives, of course, are words that modify or describe nouns. For instance, in "the tall tree," the word "tall" (an adjective) describes the word "tree" (a noun). Many, many words can function as adjectives, and whether a particular word is an adjective in a particular sentence depends on the context in which that word is used. Because of this, it is virtually impossible to come up with a macro that will determine if a word is an adjective and then somehow highlight it.

Adverbs are a different story. Most adverbs end in the letters "ly," and most words that end in "ly" are adverbs. This rule, although not 100% accurate, at least gives you some sort of guideline around which you can build a macro. Consider the following macro:

Sub FindAdverbs()
    Dim r As Range

    For Each r In ActiveDocument.Words
        If Right(Trim(r.Text), 2) = "ly" Then
            r.Italic = Not r.Italic
            r.Bold = Not r.Bold
        End If
    Next r
End Sub

This macro searches the entire document for any word that ends in ly. If it finds one, the word is made bold and italics. This makes it easy to spot probable adverbs within a document. If you run the macro a second time, those same words are converted back to regular text.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11486) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Searching for Adjectives and Adverbs.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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