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A Horror Story in Microsoft Office

In yesterday’s Better Business Writing class in Everett, Washington, a woman told a horror story of a “trick” gone wrong in Microsoft Office.

As I remember the story, she had just begun to work on a contract at a large company. When she composed a document on the computer she had been given, she realized that every time she typed management, it automatically changed to idiots. So if she typed, “This program requires approval by management,” her sentence would read “This program requires approval by idiots.”

Yikes! Sending out that message would have been the end of her contract.

She never told how she got out of that fix–that’s not the important part of the story. What is important is that she was not familiar with the Autocorrect feature in Microsoft Office, so when she saw idiots, she thought her computer had been possessed by demons. It scared her out of her cubicle.

It scares me to think that people might not be using Autocorrect. It’s a feature that can save you time and embarrassment by replacing the words you typed with the ones you meant. For example, it corrects me when I type manger for manager and pubic for public–embarrassing things I used to do often.

And then there’s Autotext. It saves me time because instead of having to type Lynn Gaertner-Johnston (my long name filled with letter combinations that lead to typos), I just type Lynn and my whole name appears. Instead of having to type Weyerhaeuser, one of my clients whose name is difficult to spell, I just type Weye and the whole name appears, spelled correctly.

In yesterday’s business writing class, a woman decided she is going to have Autotext complete her long email address for her, and she easily created an Autocorrect entry for tahnks, her fingers’ version of thanks. A man decided he would stop typing the 17-letter name of his company–and have Autotext do it for him.

Join them! If you are now doing the tasks above manually, think of the time you can save! Let’s rewrite the horror story above. Let’s change that wording from time idiots to time management.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

5 comments on “A Horror Story in Microsoft Office”

  • As I proofed someone else’s document today, I found another good addition for Autocorrect. I’m confident in suggesting that it use “assess” almost any time I type “asses.”

  • Roberta, thanks for this fine suggestion. Thanks to it, I’ve added “asses” to my Autocorrect list. However, in thinking about it, I realized I had to add these exceptions that contain “asses”: “classes,” “encompasses,” and “embarrasses.” Without listing those as exceptions, all three words would be misspelled.

    Thanks for commenting.


  • Autocorrect can be used to place the company letterhead on a document as well – logos and all. Select the entire letterhead, get into auto-correct and create a key word to mean – place letterhead here. I use ‘ltrhd.’ It’s quick, easy, and because all the vowels are missing it will not come up in my text to give me grief.

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