How to speed up your writing with AutoCorrect

This tutorial shows you how to use the AutoCorrect function built into Microsoft Word (and other word processing software) to make your writing process quicker and more efficient.

The act of writing, as in the physical process of getting your work on to the screen, can be a tiresome business at times. Thankfully, there are plenty of really rather helpful writing software packages available to help you make things as painless as possible. These tailored writing programmes are fairly newfangled though, and I suspect that most of us still use more traditional word processors, like good old Microsoft Word.
And that’s fine, because they have some rather nifty features too, like the quite awesome AutoCorrect.

What is AutoCorrect?

I’ve included the official definition below, but basically, you know how when you type and you get the odd character back to front, then something happens and it magically rectifies itself?

Well, that’s AutoCorrect. Here’s the definition:

Its principal purpose is to correct common spelling or typing errors, saving time for the user. It is also used to automatically format text or insert special characters by recognising particular character usage, saving the user from having to use more tedious functions.

What does AutoCorrect do for writers?

AutoCorrect is great because it contains all those pre-defined misspellings and typos, tracks what you’re doing and puts them right for you.

What’s even more smashing is that you can add to this pre-defined list. This is great for writers, because it allows you to create shortcuts for all those made-up words that you use again and again.

You know, like your novel’s pesky characters and settings. Or that unwieldy technical term that pops all the time on your blog.

Give us an example

In practice, it means that you can replace words with shortcuts. One of the examples I use in the tutorial is ‘Papua New Guinea’, which is fine to write in full once or twice, but if that’s where your book is set, you’ll soon get fed up.

Using AutoCorrect, you cn create the shortcode ‘png’. This means that whenever you type ‘png’ and press space (or full stop etc) from then on, Word knows to replace the shortcode with the full term, Papua New Guinea.

Watch the tutorial and you’ll see how much quicker you can write otherwise time-consuming and awkward sentences.

Is this just a Microsoft Word thing?

Absolutely not! I don’t claim to know every word processing package out there, but I believe the AutoCorrect function is built into most of them. Even if it goes by a different name.

It’s definitely there in the free OpenOffice package and from this thread in the Apple forums, it seems you can also use AutoCorrect with Pages on a Mac.

Watch this episode on Vimeo

10 Comments 24 March 2010 Reply

I am always the last one to fully access the latest technology. And this isn’t even new! Thanks for the amazing tips. Now if you could just make sure I use them…

Anonymous 24 March 2010 Reply

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Iain Broome and Writing Novels, Paulo Campos. Paulo Campos said: Vidcast of this super tip: use Word's auto-correct feature to save time on frequently typed words. – via @iainbroome […] 24 March 2010 Reply

Ah yes, I do enjoy the auto correct faciltiy. However, it does sometimes allow me to make the most dreadful grammatical errors by allowing a sea (spelt correctly of course) to replace a see. I find the best way to track down errors is to print out the document and read through. Some of us are screen blind and just can’t spot errors when they’re staireing us in the fase!

Anonymous 26 March 2010 Reply

[…] How to speed up your writing with AutoCorrect | Write for Your Life […] 26 March 2010 Reply

I’d always known about the auto-correct feature, especially when writing tired – a lot of my mistakes get corrected. (Which is always nice.)
One of the things I didn’t know, however, was that you could customise the feature to create your own ‘corrections.’

What an awesome tip! Thanks, Iain!

PS. Is there a way to cancel the auto correct, as in your example, if you actually wanted to type ‘png’ how would the auto correct be cancelled? A simple undo, or a different way? 25 October 2012 Reply

Latest reply ever, but… you would just delete the corrected version and try again. The trick is to create shortcuts that you wouldn’t necessarily type. A good way of doing that is to put a comma or full stop in front, so .png for example. 10 August 2010 Reply

I’ve never thought of doing this, I’ve always just used “Find and Replace” for oft-used words and phrases. Maybe I’ll give this a try, though it’s always slightly scary “mucking about” with software!!!

Anonymous 23 February 2011 Reply

Wow, great idea!

Anonymous 25 October 2012 Reply

[…] start assigning shortcuts. And if you’re new to autocorrect, it so happens that I recorded a handy screencast of how to use it way back in […]

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