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Hot Tip on a Microsoft Office Feature

In a Writing Tune-Up I led last week, a manager exclaimed that a tip I had just provided was worth the price of the entire workshop.

Here is the tip, and you don’t have to pay me for it:

If Microsoft Office is automatically correcting something for you–and you don’t want it corrected–you can stop the autocorrect feature for that correction.

Example: The manager types HSA, the abbreviation for “Health Savings Account.” Microsoft automatically corrects HSA to the word HAS. That auto-correction drives the manager and her team crazy. They continually undo the Microsoft correction, and sometimes their corrections get undone, although they don’t know how this is happening. They are frustrated about wasting valuable work time undoing Microsoft’s correction.

Update on March 4: Please see the fourth comment below,  the one from Marc. He shares a much faster, more efficient way of eliminating a term like “hsa” from AutoCorrect.

Here is how to eliminate a term from the AutoCorrect feature:

In Word 2003, click Tools, then AutoCorrect Options.
In Word 2007, click Office Button, then Word Options, then Proofing Tools, then AutoCorrect Options. (If you know a faster way, please share it.)

Then, for both Word 2003 and 2007, under the AutoCorrect tab, you will see a box with two columns filled with entries. The left column is labeled “Replace”; the right column is labeled “With.”

In the “Replace” column, find the entry you do not want corrected, for example, hsa, and click on it to highlight it. Then click Delete. That entry will be deleted and will never waste your time again!

Use the same approach (in the one-line box without entries) if you want to add entries to be automatically corrected. For example, I have added pubic to the “Replace” column, with public in the “With” column. Just click Add to confirm your entry.

Do you have any time-saving tips for writers who use Microsoft Office? Please share them here or provide a link to your tips.


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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.

14 comments on “Hot Tip on a Microsoft Office Feature”

  • I think a better title for this post might be “HOWTO: Turn off MS Word AutoCorrection”

    More to the point.

  • I agree with Noah – it would be more accurate.

    Speaking of autocorrection: Word is just a stupid software it will do what you command it to do. It does not know what you mean (when you want it to use HSA and when HAS), so be careful what you correct/turn on-off.

    My time-saving tip for anybody working with MSOffice would be: make your habit to press: CTRL+S!

    Sometimes it can be even life-saving habit!

    When to do this? When you finish writing an idea, every (few) sentence(s), whenever, at least every few minutes.
    Do not rely on autosave, do not trust Bill G.!!!

  • In Word 2007 (not sure about 2003), it’s actually much easier than you describe. As soon as Word changes hsa to has, move your mouse back over the word (now “has”), wait a second, and a dropdown box will appear below it. Select “Stop automatically correcting ‘hsa'” from the dropdown box. As simple as that!

  • Thanks for these helpful comments. Marc, we should pay you the price of the workshop. I am sure my client would have loved to have that Microsoft tip a long time ago!

    By the way, it works for both 2003 and 2007. When you move your cursor over the corrected word–such as “has”–a tiny box appears below the word. Click the box and you get AutoCorrect options, including Stop Automatically Correcting “hsa.”

    Again, thanks to everybody.

  • For those working with OpenOffice Writer, auto-correct replacements can be added and deleted via “Tools” → “Auto Correct”.

  • Thank you
    I have the exact same problem
    HSA and HAS…I will turn off the auto correction rightaway

  • You should all download linux, install vim, and do your word processing in LaTeX.


  • My biggest tip for using MS Word is to NOT ignore the Help function on the program. It’s right up there in the (usually) upper right hand section of the program– it’s a question mark or a box within which to search for an answer to your question.

    I think users are used to “help” not being very useful, but the MS Word help often teaches me something new about the program when I use it, and I’ve figured out how to fix a problem that would have taken hours of brainstorming just by simply READING the manual. (When all else fails). This is especially true with the changeover between MS 2003 and the newer Vista. They moved things around? Don’t search for twenty minutes– ask the program where it is.

    Sometimes it still doesn’t help, but it’s worth the time & energy to learn to access that “help” or “search” function.

  • Kim, that’s an excellent suggestion. On my Word 2007, it’s a tiny question mark in the upper right, as you said. If people are looking for the word “Help,” they will be looking for a long time.

    Thanks for the good advice.

  • I work daily with MS Office and live in acronym H-E-double hockey sticks. I got around something very similar by using the “Ignore words in UPERCASE” option. That way anytime we have to note an acronym, it doesn’t auto correct or even call it out as an error.

    It helps quite a bit. 🙂

  • Julie, good idea! I often suggest that people uncheck “Ignore words in UPPERCASE” so that their grammar and spelling checker will catch errors in all-caps titles. I’m glad you pointed out that the option is a good idea for people in acronym hell.

    Thanks for commenting!

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