Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

You can configure Gmail to flag and fix possible spelling and grammar problems, suggest text for sentences and quick replies, and leverage templates to eliminate the need to re-enter messages you send repeatedly. Or, if you prefer to compose every message yourself with no aid from the system, you may turn all of these options off and rely on your own ability to write precisely what you intend without errors.

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In most cases, I recommend that people who use Gmail configure settings in a web browser as shown in Figure A and Figure D. These options not only help you minimize errors, but over time, can reduce the time you spend writing emails. To get started, open Gmail in Chrome on a desktop-class computer.

Figure A

Screenshot of Gmail | General settings, with grammar, spelling and autocorrect all on. Writing suggestions, personalization, smart reply and smart features and personalization options also all set to on.
To identify and fix potential errors, turn on spelling and grammar suggestions along with autocorrect in Gmail. To have the system offer predictive suggestions, turn on several smart compose and reply settings.

How to use Grammar, Spelling and Autocorrect in Gmail

Most people will want to allow Gmail to identify potential spelling and grammar issues and to autocorrect many errors. The system can catch and fix all sorts of typical mistakes, including typos (e.g., “teh” for the), quantity agreement errors (e.g., “one laptops,” instead of one laptop) and tense problems (e.g., “we already order new equipment,” where the verb should be ordered).

In Gmail, select the sprocket (upper right) | See All Settings | General, then choose the following settings:

  • Grammar: Grammar suggestions on,
  • Spelling: Spelling suggestions on, and
  • Autocorrect: Autocorrect on.

Scroll to the bottom of the settings page and select Save Changes.

Place your cursor on a word identified as a potential problem—underlined in red for a grammar issue, blue for a spelling issue—to display options. Click (or tap) on a suggested change to accept it, or select the circled x to ignore it (Figure B).

Figure B

With spelling and grammar suggestions active in Gmail, the system underlines potential grammar issues in blue and possible spelling errors in red.

How to use Smart Compose, Smart Reply and personalization in Gmail

Smart compose and Smart Reply offer opportunities to leverage the power of adaptive predictive systems in email messages. Smart Compose provides potential words or phrases for your sentence that you may pick (with a tap or swipe) while you enter text in an email message. Smart Reply lets you select a phrase for a fast response.

For these features to work, first sign in to Gmail, select the sprocket (upper right) | See all settings | General, then check the box next to Smart features and personalization. Then select the following settings:

  • Smart Compose: Writing suggestions on,
  • Smart Compose personalization: Personalization on, and
  • Smart Reply: Smart Reply on.

Scroll to the bottom of the settings page and select Save Changes.

The Smart Compose and Smart Reply systems (Figure C) adjust the options offered over time as the system learns the phrases you use and choose. If you want to try these features, I suggest you enable both options and leave them on for a month or so. That typically gives the system a sufficient amount of time to adapt to reflect your preferences and writing style. Simply turning the feature on and then writing an email or replying to a few messages won’t give you an accurate understanding of what these features do. Turn them on, leave them on for several weeks, and only then evaluate how well the system-suggested words and phrases meet your needs.

Figure C

Two images: (left) labeled Smart Compose, with a sentence that starts “I hope this email” followed by suggested text “finds you well” in gray; (right) labeled Smart Reply, an email with three suggested reply buttons: “I know!”, “Me too!” and “I agree!” displayed below a received email.
When writing a Gmail, Smart Compose displays a possible message in light gray (as shown on the left). Tap the tab key to accept and use the suggestion. Separately, the system displays Smart Reply options below an email (as shown on the right). Click on (or tap) any of the options to reply with your selected reply.

How to use templates in Gmail

The template feature in Gmail allows you to write a message once, save it as a template, then retrieve the stored template anytime. Templates work well when you send the same message—or even similar messages—often.

To enable templates, open Gmail in a desktop-class web browser, select the sprocket (upper right) | See all settings | Advanced | select Enable under Templates. Select Save Changes to preserve the change (Figure D).

Figure D

Screenshot of Gmail settings, with Templates option set to Enable.
In Gmail settings, select the Advanced tab, then choose Enable under Templates. This allows you to save any message you plan to use often, then insert it as you compose or reply.

Then, whenever you compose a new email or write a reply, you may select the three dot menu (to the left of the trash icon in the Gmail compose window) | Templates | Save draft as template | Save as new template, then name your message in such a way that it will make sense to you when you want to retrieve it for a future email. If your email message is otherwise blank, the name of the saved template will be inserted as the subject of your email.

Alternatively, if you select a previously stored template, you may choose to replace the previously stored message with your current one. This allows you to update any saved message template as needed or desired.

With a Gmail message open, select the three dot menu (next to the trash icon in the compose window) | Templates, then choose any saved template to insert it into your message, as shown in Figure E. Note that you may repeat the template insert process, which would allow you to store and insert a variety of messages in a Gmail message. For example, if you might store one template that provides a summary of your organization’s work, and other templates that each provide details about a specific product or service. Select and insert one or more templates as appropriate.

Figure E

Screenshot shows compose window, with Template option active, with menu options of two templates (titled “Thanks!” and “Not at this time”), Save draft a template and Delete template.
In the compose window, select the three-dot menu | Templates to access and manage Gmail message templates.

How do you write efficiently in Gmail?

In addition to the tips covered above, Google also offers Smart Compose and Smart Reply settings in the Gmail mobile apps for iOS/iPadOS and Android. However, grammar, spellcheck and auto-correct options rely on system settings. (For iOS: Settings | General | Keyboard, then enable Auto-Correction and Check Spelling options. For Android: Settings | System | Languages & input | Spell Checker, turn on, and, assuming you use Gboard, tap the sprocket and also enable Grammar Check.)

Do you turn on error checking, auto-correction and smart suggestions in Gmail? Or do you prefer to turn off one (or more) of these options? If you have used Smart Compose or Smart Reply, what do you think about the suggested messages offered? Do you often use the suggested words or phrases? Let me know what combination of writing efficiency settings you prefer in Gmail, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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