Autocorrect is your friend

Wow, after the massive response to my last post I'm getting the hint that Word tips are interesting. So here's another.

There's a feature in Word called autocorrect, which does what it says. If you type teh it auto-magically changes it to the. This saves lots of backspacing and retyping. You can find it on the menu under Tools -> Autocorrect Options. Autocorrect is on by default so you probably already know about it. But did you know you can add your own autocorrections?

You can distort autocorrect to do two things very useful for writers.

You can use autocorrect to make typing character names faster. My hero and heroine are Nicolaos and Diotima. After about 23 revisions of two books, I can type their names blindfold, in my sleep, with both hands tied behind my back. I have other characters with names like Pericles, Xanthippus, Themistocles and Sophroniscus. They're all real and fascinating people from the Golden Age of Greece!

So I've added these autocorrections:

N autocorrects to Nicolaos.
D autocorrects to Diotima.
P autocorrects to Pericles.
X autocorrects to Xanthippus.
thm autocorrects to Themistocles.
S autocorrects to Sophroniscus.

If I type:

"N, I want you and D to carry this secret message to X," P said.

Then what comes out is

"Nicolaos, I want you and Diotima to carry this secret message to Xanthippus," Pericles said.

That's 29 keystrokes saved, which frees up more time to spend playing with twitter and facebook.

You can add your own autocorrections by going to Tools -> Autocorrect Options. Type your N in the textbox labelled Replace, and your Nicolaos in the textbox labelled With. Then click Add. The entire list of autocorrections, including the defaults, are in the list at the bottom of the dialog.

The other use I put autocorrect to is to catch my noise words. Everyone has them. I tend to overuse the word just. To stop myself I put in this autocorrection:

just autocorrects to NO! NO! NO!

If I type:

"I'll just wander over to the Agora," N said.

What appears is:

"I'll NO! NO! NO! wander over to the Agora," Nicolaos said.

If you're wondering how I manage to write just when I actually mean it, jsut is set to autocorrect to just. So I have to deliberately misspell the word to get it in, which makes me think first.

60 comments:

Peter Cooper said...

That's unbelievably helpful, Gary! I too have a habit of overusing "just", so I'll be putting your tips into place next time I fire up Word. Thanks for the post!

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Peter. I'll be glad if it helps.

Amalia T. said...

That Just business is AWESOME! These are great tips! I might have to do an autocorrect NO! NO! NO! for the word eyes. There are a lot of them wandering around in my writing, I think.

Thanks for this!!

Gary Corby said...

I rather like the idea of lots of eyes peeking out at me from your book, Amalia. Sort of like the book reading me as I read it.

Valerie Geary said...

Nice! I think my favorite part is ending up with your manuscript yelling "NO! NO! NO!"! Great tips!

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Valerie. It'd be cool if we could get Word to actually shout in audio too, but sadly I don't think it can be done. We'll have to stick to capitals I guess.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Very helpful! I just ran spellcheck on Hatshepsut and discovered I'd created some colorful ways to spell the poor dear's name. I'll have to use the NO! trick too!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Heavens to Betsy. Just for kicks I did a word search for the word just. The first one popped up on page 137 so I thought I was in the clear. That's because that's the page I left off on when I minimized the screen. So I did a word count.

Groans.

The word just was used 235 times. Okay, so some of those are embedded in other words, like justice, but still.

Thanks again, Gary- I owe you again!

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Stephanie. I know what you mean about the spelling of unusual names going a bit awry. Come to think of it, that's another reason to use a short form + autocorrect.

Gary Corby said...

Hey, Stephanie, if you want only the whole word just then you can either click the "find whole words only" option, or you can search for the pattern:

<just>

The angle brackets mean the start and end of a word.

Bane of Anubis said...

That's great -- if Microsoft's good at something, macros (or pseudo-macros, I guess, in this case) are definitely one of them.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I didn't know the brackets trick- I can definitely use that on future word searches.

And now I'm down to 118 just's. I can live with that.

Oh! And I just read your comment to Valerie. There is actually a way to get Word to read, but now I forget how. It's complicated and the voices all sound like robots. I tried it once to avoid reading my WIP out loud for the gazillionth time, but couldn't stand the robots.

Gary Corby said...

Yes, the robot voice sounds awful. I was thinking along the lines of, if I type just, then the computer says something like, "You idiot Gary, you know not to overuse just."

The Ink Gypsy said...

You just got yourself bookmarked! Awesome tips for anytime I'm NO! NO! NO! trying to get the story out. :)

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Ink Gypsy. You have NO! NO! NO! won the prize for wittiest comment of the day.

CKHB said...

Gary Corby: making technology work for YOU.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Gary,

Okay, this totally rocks. I have several bad word habits that I wind up weeding out later... much more fun to have my wip scream at me in the moment of conception...

*I No!No!No! read that last sentence again and realized a non-writer would totally take that the wrong way*

Gary Corby said...

LOL Merry. It never occurred to me to misread that sentence until you mentioned it. Guess we must both be writers.

Thanks Carrie. I think we're now at the end of any techie advice I might have. Except maybe for backup systems. And there's no point in writing about that because no one ever does their backups properly anyway. It's like swearing you'll do your tax return on time next year.

Amalia T. said...

I use the word eyes 457 times in my MS.

That is a LOT of eyes watching back.

Gary Corby said...

So if it came to a vote, the Eyes would have it. You're right Amalia, 457 does seem a trifle excessive.

P. Bradley Robb said...

Nice trick. I like Open Office which has the autocomplete feature turned on by default. As you use the program, it keeps track of the words you use the most often, and when you start them it shows what it thinks the word you want to type in backgrounded text. Just hit enter and it completes the word for you.

It saves a lot of time, especially when working with names.

SquidKiller said...

I've known and loved AutoCorrect for years! I've found that I like to make my auto-corrections at least two characters long - that way I don't accidentally correct something that didn't need to be corrected. Also handy if several characters have names that start with the same letter.

Yvonne said...

Ingenious. You have to deliberately misspell a word to get it in. I might try that for one of my noise words-suddenly.

I jsut love the Greeks and am so glad I found your blog. You made me smile. Thanks for that.

Yvonne said...

Oh, and I love the name of your blog, but wasn't it a boy that fell from the sky? In Breughel's Icarus...I'm thinking.

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Yvonne, I jsut love it when new people drop in!

The name of the blog is the very first line from my first book.

"A dead man fell from the sky, landing at my feet with a thud."

Gary Corby said...

P. Bradley, yep, OpenOffice has essentially the same feature and you can put it to the same use. The interface is slightly different of course and the way it treats capitals is different but seems to be a bit more consistent.

Gary Corby said...

That's a good point Squidkiller. I perhaps should have added not to make your autocorrect short forms the same as real words, for obvious reasons.

I recommend, by the way, to select different starting letters for your character names if you possibly can.

70% of my characters were real historical people, so I'm stuck with their names. But when there's an overlap in the sound of two names I find a nickname for one. Make life as easy as possible for the reader!

Joelle said...

I've used auto correct for years to add the accent mark over the first E in my name (doesn't work here). I just type in my name without it and it fixes it for me. Love it! Tip for anyone else who wants to do that, type the word with the accent mark using special characters in a regular word doc, then copy it and paste it in to the autocorrect box.

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Joelle, I never thought of that. What a good idea!

Julianna Sage said...

Great information. Thank you for sharing.

Joanna said...

Wow. Gary, this is amazing! Am I the only person in the world that didn't know about this?! I love the NO! NO! NO! the best--really smart. Like I expected anything less?

writtenwyrdd said...

I knew about all these features, but it never occurred to me to use it for shortcuts. Duh.

I like your NO! NO! NO! idea.

MomCO3 said...

I NO! NO! NO! discovered your blog and am NO! NO! NO! delighted to meet you, even if it's NO! NO! NO! a cyberintroduction. Now if I can NO! NO! NO! figure out how to get this NO! NO! NO! fabulous post out of my head long enough to NO! NO!NO! write anything useful...
Annie

myimaginaryblog said...

Hilarious and brilliant. I hate auto-correct because I like to write things wrong on purpose (I'm not even going to try to explain that) and I just barely discovered how to shut off unwanted corrections. Being able to create new rules is going to make me feel unprecedentedly powerful. Thanks!

Chloe Neill said...

BRILLIANT! My last manu had a ridiculous number of "head bobbings" and "ambled over's". Now I have a fix!

Yvonne said...

Holy shit! Or...better than a dropping meteorite. (Did you hear about the one that fell through the ceiling in the examining room of a Dr's office?) What a great first line for a novel. I'm adding you, Gary Corby, to my list of novelists to explore at Powell's or my lovely little library. Another I just discovered is Jim Harrison, Michigan writer. Where have I been? Under a pile of compost?

Cheers!

Gary Corby said...

Thank you everyone, Yvonne, Chloe, myimaginaryblog, MomCO3, writtenwyrd and Jo. I'm glad you appreciate it.

Jo, your part in that video on Janet's blog was hilarious!

Susan Wilbanks said...

I recently pared 9000 words off an old manuscript so I could submit to a publisher with a maximum word count of 90,000. I'm embarrassed to admit how much I managed to cut simply by getting rid of "just," "little," "very," and the like.

I found your blog via Janet Reid's and am looking forward to reading the archive (and, of course, your book once it comes out!). I'm currently writing the Napoleonic Era, but Greece 5th Century BCE is rapidly becoming my second favorite historical era.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Susan, thanks for the kind words.

Yes, you're right. It's amazing how much space noise words consume. And it reads so much better when you just get rid of them, doesn't it? :-)

moonrat said...

I can't tell if you're kidding and this is a hilarious joke, or if you're serious and even more of a supernerd than I thought, in which case I'll jsut say I am very, very impressed. Deliberate misspelling. Amazing.

Annie said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am a translator working on an 800 page legal document where I have to type Mississippi or Louisiana or Florida twice in every paragraph. Once again, thank you!

Gary Corby said...

Very happy it helps, Anne. Personally I couldn't spell Mississipi or Massachusetts to save my life.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Moonrat! I must cop with a blush to the supernerd label. The misspelling system really is deliberate.

philologia said...

G, that's incredible. So you know, the same feature is available in OpenOffice/NeoOffice, which jsut so happens to be my freeware word program of choice.

S.D. said...

Brilliant.

Kelly A. Harmon said...

Love this post, Gary. It gets you on my bookmarked list.

During my edits, I like to do search and replaces on adverbs, similar to No! No! No! - but I think I'm going to add a wildcard replacement for anything with "ly " on auto-correct so I'll have to work hard to add them to begin with! (I know it won't catch all the adverbs...but it's a good start!)

Thanks for the tip.

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Kelly & SD.

Philo, OpenOffice does indeed have autocorrect and it works in a very similar way (though I think the handling of capitals is slightly different). I use both. I wrote most of my second book using OpenOffice. I rather like OpenOffice Writer, but with some reluctance I've reverted to Word because of the severely wrong word count function in OpenOffice. It's a killing problem for a writer. When they've fixed that and a couple of other points I'd love to go back to it.

scaryazeri said...

I did know about autocorrect, however found your use for it brilliant. :) And I just love my "just"...:)

Cassandra said...

Love your story Gary! Thanks for blogging about this great Word feature. For more tips and tricks of the trade, join the community at the Office Page on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/office. I’m sure the folks over there would appreciate you sharing your expertise with the community! Keep those Word tips coming...

Cheers
Cassandra
MSFT Office Outreach

Scott Sargent said...

As soon as I saw this blog I quickly made the changes to word. I've tried to type "just" about four times now and laugh every time it says NO! NO! NO! fantastic tip! thank you!

Gary Corby said...

Glad you like it Scott.

AchingHope said...

Yes! I love auto-correct! It helps with really confusing spelled named, although I never thought to do such things as the "No! No! No!" (which I just cracked up about) I never thought to purposefully spell words wrong. It makes me laugh.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Aching. Welcome to the blog!

Glad you liked the idea. There are probably others waiting to be found.

Sam said...

This is extremely helpful and very clever. I know I'm going to be using it often.

Peggy Bechko said...

Thanks Gary, very helpful. I go back and forth between word and Open Office. I'll have to rummage around in Open Office and see if there's a way to apply this there as well.

Gary Corby said...

Glad you like it, Sam.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Peggy, thanks, and welcome to the blog!

Yes, OpenOffice has the same feature. Though it works slightly differently, the basic idea will still work for you.

maine character said...

Great tip. I've always used letters for characters - J said she saw M and L over at T's - in drafts, and later did a Search and Replace, but this is much better.

It also would've helped the secretary for Douglas Adams, who called a character in his radio script Slartibartfast just to annoy her, in that the character's not named in the dialogue for many pages, and when finally asked, he says, "My name? My name is not important." He always got a laugh out of how she'd of had to type that name over and over and then get to that point.

slrman said...

A good tip, especially for those not familiar with auto correct. This feature is also available in other word processors, too.

Even more important was the part about "noise" words. Another would be "so." Do a sear on it and see how many time it is contributing anything. If not, so just delete it. LOL

Anna L. Walls said...

Ha - some awesome ideas here. I overuse 'that' and 'had' and a couple others. I'll have to think of something.