Monday, 13 February 2017

What is Your Computer Doing to Your Writing?

There’s this amazing crime fiction competition on at the moment, hosted jointly by ACW and Alfie Dog Fiction.  Click on for more information.  Submissions should be emailed to me at and non-members should pay their – very reasonable – entry fees via a PayPal link on the ACW competitions page.  Haven’t computers revolutionised the way writers write!

I remember scribbling stories by hand, typing them up, then submitting by post.  I used to write in pencil, so that I could use a rubber to edit as I went along, although, I believe, some authors used to bash out their stories straight on to typewriter.  (Did they never edit at all?)  Being a rotten typist, I frequently needed to anoint my pages with Tippex, and, often, had to them off the platen because there was too much Tippex, or, worse, eraser holes in the paper.  What a relief to move on to Word, to have my work onscreen and to be able edit - easily - using spellcheck and the backspace key on the keyboard, and to be relieved of the chore of typing up afterwards.

Your computer may be your friend, but you need to take control of it.  Autocorrect, for instance, is a wonderful thing, automatically correcting common spelling errors, without us even knowing it’s doing it.  For example, I just typed doign and autocorrect changed it to doing - which was helpful - but autocorrect can have a mind of its own.  In particular, autocorrect seems to have problems with where, we’re and were, also with which and witch.  Spellcheck doesn’t help.  I’ve seen work where these words have been used appropriately ‘spellchecked’ to incorrect usage.

You may add your own autocorrects.  To access autocorrect (in Word), click on File – Options – Proofing – Autocorrect Options.  The main character in the novel I'm writing is called Marya, but I can’t be bothered to type her name in full every time.  I have therefore configured Word so that every time I type mya autocorrect corrects it to Marya (see screen dump).

You will also see that I have also set up an autocorrect for Marya's.

Autocorrect does your capitals for you too (see screen dump above).  The default setting generates capitals at the beginnings of sentences and for proper names and corrects accidental use of caps.  However, these settings sometimes seem to fall off.  To get them back on, access autocorrect again and check the appropriate checkboxes.  For more detailed guidance about using autocorrect in Word, visit  Autocorrect is available in MacBooks and other word processing applications too.

Autocorrect (or predictive text) is present on mobile phones, sometimes causing we, the unwary, to send silly messages.  I’ve mentioned, before, how I texted to my son that I was ‘costing bidets in Ostend’.  The people who wrote the predictive text dictionaries were clearly Americans, but not from the Bible Belt.  American cities, or names of celebrities, frequently appear on my screen when I’m trying to key in something completely different, but try typing Christmas, or Christian, into an iPhone and the predictive text doesn’t kick in until almost the last letter.  When keying in Jesus, it doesn’t help at all.

Rosemary Johnson has been published in Copperfield Review, Circa, Everyday Fiction and Alfie Dog Fiction, and, like everybody else, she is writing a novel.  She blogs at Write On and Dear Reader.


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  2. I remember one of my kids discovering that autocorrect function in word and mischievously adding some bizarre variants of her own (such as changing her dad's name to "banana") which mystified us until she owned up!

  3. Yes, I can understand that it would be mystifying. It could've been much worse, though, Ros.

  4. Autocorrect can be very naughty: it is always necessary to carefully read anything after writing, as it inserts the words it expects quite often. Especially in fiction, as this is less predictable than management-speak documents ... Also, when dictating, be doubly aware of its ways ...:-)