Most users take AutoCorrect for granted - they let it fix typos with little acknowledgement or understanding of how the feature works. The feature works behind the scenes and works so well, that often, users don't even know they entered a typo at all! It's little wonder that users fail to put this feature to work for them. Here are four AutoCorrect enhancements that will help your users work more productively and accurately.
Add commonly misspelled words and typos to AutoCorrect
Word displays a red squiggly line under misspelled words and most typos. That's Word's spelling and grammar feature at work. Users tend to right-click the word and choose the right spelling or press Escape if the word is spelled correctly. But users can work more efficiently using AutoCorrect. When Word identifies a misspelled word or typo, add the word to AutoCorrect, as follows, to avoid seeing it again:
- Select and right-click the identified word.
- In the resulting context menu, choose AutoCorrect. Then, select AutoCorrect Options.
- Word will use the selected word as the Replace string.
- Enter the correct spelling in the With control.
- Click Add.
- Click OK.
The next time your user types speled instead of spelled, Word will automatically correct the misspelling -no more manual corrections! Your user might not even notice the feature at work! This is a great feature for catching frequently misspelled words.
Create a shortcut for spelling out abbreviated terms
Another way to rev up AutoCorrect is to replace abbreviations with longer terms. The abbreviation can be real, such as SDF for Louisville International Airport. Or, the entry can be something personal to the user, such as Zena for Zena, Princess Warrior.
You can type the abbreviated form, such as sdf or Zena, and repeat the steps above, but you'll have to delete the entry from the actual document when you're done. Alternately, you can type the full form and do the following:
- Select the full form, such as Louisville International Airport.
- Click the File menu, choose Options under Help, and then click Proofing in the left pane. In Word 2007, click the Office button, click Word Options, and then choose Proofing in the left pane. In Word 2003, choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu.
- Click the AutoCorrect Options button in the AutoCorrect Options section. (Skip this step in Word 2003.)
- Word will fill the With control with the selected string.
- Enter the abbreviated form in the Replace control. For example, in the case of Louisville International Airport, you'd enter sdf.
- Click Add.
- Click OK twice (just once in Word 2003).
When the lines blur
Sometimes, users might want to create an entry that's not so straightforward. For instance, users might want want to ensure they enter Microsoft Word instead of just Word - Microsoft likes that. But, "word" is in common usage, so creating an entry based on it is a bad idea. When this is the case, users can preface the entry with a special character, such as the /. Instead of entering word in the Replace control, the user can enter /word. During ordinary entry, Word won't replace the string word; when the user wants to enter Microsoft Word, she enters /word and the feature automatically replaces /word with Microsoft Word.
AutoCorrect is great for reducing data entry and catching typos, but it can also apply formatting. Suppose you work for a small publishing company and users routinely type and format the periodical title, Birdwatchers Rock! They can save a few keystrokes by saving the entry as an AutoCorrect; the abbreviated form might be /br or just br. But Word can replace the abbreviated form with the italicized title, not just the title, saving users a few keystrokes. Using the instructions in the second tip, enter the title in its long form and italicize it before adding it to AutoCorrect.
This trick works for special formatting too. For instance, you could insert non-breaking spaces in the title to ensure that Word never breaks the title between two lines.
Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.