The Two Sides of Autocorrect


Some people love it, others detest it. I find it convenient, but always, always, always proofread before I send a message.

The New York Times recently ran an article about the perils of Autocorrect, highlighting a message an 83-year-old woman sent to her great-granddaughter. She signed it “Great Grandma.” Unfortunately, Autocorrect thought it knew better and changed her signature to “Great Grandmaster Flash,” a hip hop pioneer not within Great Grandma’s ken.

We’ve all had our embarrassments with Autocorrect. Years ago I wrote to a friend named Patricia, who ever since has been known to me as Patella.“Prosciutto” on a menu became “prostitute.” The investment firm Goldman Sachs became “Goddamn Sachs.” Naomi Campbell congratulated “Malaria” (Malala) on winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and Barrack Obama has been known as “Osama.”

It’s obvious to me that Autocorrect has advanced, if that is the correct word, to be sufficiently familiar with my vocabulary and tone that it substitutes words and phrases I use fairly often. It’s a little creepy.

Autocorrect is a feature you can disable if you want to avoid it. We all make enough mistakes without having our computers add to them. I’m not giving up Autocorrect (yet), but I urge you to proofread absolutely everything before you hit Send. Do it one word at a time and slowly. If you proofread at your normal reading speed, as I have mentioned numerous times, you will read what you think you wrote, not what you (or Autocorrect) actually wrote.



Filed under All things having to do with the English language

2 responses to “The Two Sides of Autocorrect

  1. echo

    As a longtme proofreader/editor and the ‘default’ grammarian in my office, I learned a trick that catches, on average, 98% of spelling errors:
    Read the document, paragraph, sentence, whatever, from the end to the beginning.
    That way you’re looking at the words, not the content.
    As to Autocorrect? Leave it on. And don’t check so carefully all the time.
    My favorite website ‘’ can always use new entries.
    And, thanks to Autocorrect, i now know that the breed of dog that my friend has is a ‘llama upside down’, a fluffy little ‘animated floormop’ of a dog that the rest of the world calls a lhasa apso.


    • Proofreading backwards catches blatant spelling errors. But if you write and when you meant to write any or manger when you meant manager (I cannot tell you how many times I saw that when I taught in the corporate world), you likely won’t catch it. By reading backwards, you miss the meaning. Many times when people revise as they write, they end up leaving words out or keeping words they no longer need. Those, too, will be missed when proofreading from end to beginning.


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