Few things are more annoying than your phone randomly changing words, adding apostrophes, or aggressively capitalizing names. Grammar Guru is going slightly off-book today, deep-diving into the world of autocorrect, lamenting when it fails, and giving you a few tips to alleviate your autocorrect headaches.
A brief history of autocorrect
Wall Street Journal produced a clever, tongue-in-cheek piece at a duck farm to try to get to the ducking point of this issue. They interviewed the inventor of autocorrecting for the iPhone, Ken Kochienda, a former Apple engineer of 15 years. I’ll drop it here, but read on for a summary and commentary.
Ken created two dictionaries: the static dictionary, which has all the everyday words in a given language, plus plural nouns like places, sports teams, etc. Then he created the dynamic dictionary, which contains all of YOUR personal words that it tries to learn over time. Your dynamic dictionary has words that are not standard English, like a friend’s name taken from your contact list. When these two dictionaries are at odds, it can be sublimely annoying. I’m adding some spice to the Wall Street Journal writer’s three major autocorrect fails.
Words will randomly change
Why does it autocorrect something when you clearly mean something else? When you write a word out more than two times, the software is designed to learn the pattern and start to see the word as valid. This doesn’t seem to work a lot of the time. For example, I still have a hard time typing StyleBlueprint correctly when I’m moving quickly. Our company does not spell it any other way but this. No spaces. Not BluePrint. Weird capitalization seems to always trip up autocorrect.
FIX TIP: go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement and then ADD your word to both the Phrase and Shortcut fields.
As you can see above, the only shortcut that comes standard on iPhone is omw > On my way! Apple thinks you are VERY excited about going anywhere you’re going. (If you were to receive a text with omw and would not know what it means, revisit my Acronyms You Should Know episode!)
Here are some other commonly swapped-out words to check for.
- and <> abs
- food <> good
- good <> hood
- from <> form
- some <> sone
- in <> on
Cursing is very difficult
In the interview, Ken says you can have your cuss words if you correctly type them. But if you miss one letter, Apple isn’t going to fix it or help you type a bad word, slur, etc. They don’t want to nudge someone to say something awful. Ken went through h’ell and back researching all the bad words one might possibly type and made sure we have a hard time doing so. (See what I did there?)
FIX TIP: You can type your bad words correctly or add your favorite curse words to your dictionary using the above tip or by adding them to your contact list.
Apostrophe atrocities abound
If you have been following Grammar Guru for more than a few minutes, you know that an apostrophe NEVER makes something plural. (Nope, not even last names.) But your iPhone really wants to tell you otherwise. It will continually change days of the week in their plural form to Monday’s, Tuesday’s, etc.
FIX TIP: Make sure the apostrophe has a purpose! If you are just saying multiple days of the week, you do not need it; delete it.
iPhone is INCORRECT: Our group meets on Monday’s at 4 p.m.
You will fix it to be CORRECT: Our group meets on Mondays at 4. p.m.
iPhone is CORRECT: Let’s prep for Monday’s meeting.
Names are randomly capitalized
If you write someone’s name in all caps one time, it will automatically change it to all caps for the rest of your life, and you will spend hours changing it back to avoid them thinking you are screaming. Just kidding, but this has happened to me with my friend Atalie despite her name being spelled conventionally in my contact list.
FIX TIP: If the “add shortcut” trick from the first tip does not work, you can reset your phone’s dictionary and start over from scratch as a last resort. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Keyboard Dictionary. It will show a warning that you are about to “delete all custom words you have typed on the keyboard.” If you’re sure, carry on.
I still hate autocorrect. What can I do?
If you are genuinely at your wits’ end with how your phone types for you, you can turn off Apple’s autocorrect. I promise that you will be floored by how much you used it, and you will immediately regret your decision. Another option is to pick and choose which parts you want to keep on or off. You can also download a third-party application like Google’s Gboard or Typewise.
I hope this ducking helped!
All screengrabs from my phone. Do you have ideas for future episodes? Email [email protected]!
For more grammar, spelling, and word usage tips, explore our Grammar Guru archives HERE!