You know that Microsoft Word automatically replaces some text as you type, but did you know you can customize the AutoCorrect settings? These tips, adapted from Affinity Consulting Group’s “Microsoft Word for Legal Professionals,” will speed up your document drafting.
How Microsoft Word AutoCorrect Works
AutoCorrect uses a simple matrix to determine when to replace the characters you type with different text. There are two columns in the matrix. The first is the text that gets replaced when typed (we’ll call this the “Replaced Text”). The second is the text that is inserted in the place of the replaced text (we’ll call this the “Inserted Text”).
As soon as Word recognizes that Replaced Text has been typed, it springs into action and swaps the Replaced Text out with the Inserted Text.
For example, when you type the closing parenthesis in “(c),” Word replaces it with a “©”. If you frequently need to use a “©” in your document, this can save you the time required to insert the symbol from the ribbon. However, if you more frequently need to type “(c)” for statutory references, this feature can get pretty annoying quickly.
Undoing Autocorrections as You Type
When Word autocorrects text you’ve typed, you can quickly undo it the moment it happens:
- Hit the undo button.
- Use the undo keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + Z).
- Or hit the backspace key.
Note that the backspace key only works if you haven’t typed anything after typing the Replaced Text.
Customizing the List of AutoCorrect Entries
Customize the AutoCorrect list to minimize the number of autocorrections you need to undo as you type. You can also add custom AutoCorrect entries to make drafting faster.
To access the list, go to the File menu and open your Word Options. Click on Proofing on the left-hand side, then click on the AutoCorrect Options… button at the top of the Proofing options. You’ll find the list on the AutoCorrect tab of the AutoCorrect Options dialog.
Deleting AutoCorrect Entries from the List
Delete AutoCorrect entries that don’t work in your favor. Select the irritating entry in the list, and click on the Delete button at the bottom of the list. If the Delete button is grayed out, click on the AutoCorrect entry again. Sometimes it looks like the entry is selected, but it isn’t actually selected until you click on it again.
Adding Custom AutoCorrect Entries to the List
To add custom AutoCorrect entries to the list, start by entering Replaced Text under “Replace.” Be mindful of the character to be replaced. You want characters that are easy to remember, or you’re unlikely to take advantage of the AutoCorrect entry. Further, make sure you use characters that aren’t a word themselves or an abbreviation you might need.
Then, under “With,” type the Inserted Text. Click on the Replace button to finish adding the AutoCorrect entry.
Best Practices for Using Microsoft Word Autocorrect
AutoCorrect is great for inserting short text snippets, such as your full name or firm’s name, or inserting frequently used symbols (like the section symbol). It also works well to fix any typos you frequently make.
- Inserting symbols with AutoCorrect. To insert symbols using AutoCorrect, first insert the symbol into your document using the Symbol button on the Insert ribbon. Then select the symbol. When you open the AutoCorrect dialog, the selected text will automatically appear under “With.”
- Longer passages. Don’t try to use AutoCorrect for anything longer than short phrases. Instead, use AutoText to insert longer passages, signature blocks or captions quickly. AutoText can be found on the Insert ribbon under Quick Parts.
Fix Other AutoCorrect Settings Too
While you’re adding AutoCorrect entries, take a moment to fix any other AutoCorrect settings that aren’t to your liking. For example:
- Consider unchecking the box to automatically capitalize the first letter of sentences. While proper sentences almost always start with a capital letter, Word considers the first letter of any paragraph to be the first letter of a sentence. This setting can cause issues when adding a “cc” line at the end of a letter. When this box is checked, Word will automatically capitalize the first “c.”
- If you frequently work with tables in Word, consider unchecking the box to automatically capitalize the first letter of table cells. Not all tables need the first letter of every cell capitalized.
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