Writing tip

by Maria McCann, Royal Literary Fund Fellow in the Department of Arts and Cultural Industries.

The Joy of Autocorrect, or How to Get an Easier Life

If you have to produce work in which certain names and phrases will be constantly repeated, the autocorrect function of your word-processing software can save you time, effort and typos.

For example, whenever I begin writing a piece of fiction I invest a small amount of time entering the names of people and places that I know I’ll have to type over and over: Rosemary-Jane, Marx, London.

I then invent a convenient abbreviation for each (in lower case and without punctuation, for speed and ease of use).   They are simple and intuitive: rj for Rosemary-Jane (perhaps also rjk for Rosemary-Jane Keery, if I know I’ll be using both forms of the name), mx for Marx (perhaps kmx if I want Karl Marx), lond for London, etc.

Next I set up autocorrect so that each time I type mx the software corrects it to Marx, and so on. For obvious reasons, I don’t choose abbreviations that are words in their own right, such as an or the.

This may seem quite a humble tip but over several drafts of an assignment (not to mention three years of study) the time saving can be considerable. Imagine if you have to reference works with very long titles, or works co-authored by several people with names like E. Rodney Kamut-Kreuzelpitzer, or analyse the impact of antidisestablishmentarianism. Once the system is set up, you minimise time spent fussing over capitals, hyphens and even apostrophes (italics have to be added separately, alas). For example:

Type erkk for E. Rodney Kamut-Kreuzelpitzer

Type erkks for E. Rodney Kamut-Kreuzelpitzer’s

You can create autocorrect prompts for entire groups of names, should you wish. It’s like a limited (but still very useful) version of predictive text.

The only drawback to this system is that it can induce a certain laziness about mastering the correct spelling and punctuation of items you are no longer typing in full. We learn such things through repetition; having spared yourself that repetition, you may have to invest a little time in making sure important names and titles are committed to memory. It’s a small price to pay for such convenience.

If you’d like to book a confidential one-to-one session with me to work on your writing skills email me at Maria.McCann@uwe.ac.uk. I’m in 3S201 on Frenchay on Wednesdays and Thursdays.


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