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Jeremy Jameson - Founder and Principal



Is AutoCorrect making me stupid or just plain lazy?

This post originally appeared on my MSDN blog:

Since I no longer work for Microsoft, I have copied it here in case that blog ever goes away.

Yesterday's post got me thinking about something.

Do you find yourself occasionally typing one word when you are actually thinking of a different word that sounds the same? A faint recollection from one or more of my English classes long ago suggested that these words are called homonyms. However, a quick search just now on Wikipedia indicates these are actually homophones.

For example, have you ever typed the word "do" when you meant "due", or similarly "overdo" when you meant "overdue"? Surely you know the difference between the two, yet somehow in the time that it takes your fingers to turn your thoughts into characters, then words, and eventually sentences on the screen, something goes terribly wrong.

I honestly can't ever remember doing this as child, although it undoubtedly happened more than a few times as my vocabulary grew at a faster pace than my ability to spell. I definitely don't remember it happening in high school or college. This made me wonder if this infliction is somehow related to typing -- or more specifically, my typing speed (which has vastly increased since my college days). This got me thinking that perhaps it's not actually related to my skills as a typist, but somehow related to the fact many of the applications I use on a daily basis have some sort of "auto-correct" feature.

Consider the AutoCorrect feature in Microsoft Word -- and Outlook -- as an example. I have to wonder if the fact that this has been fixing my typing and spelling errors for almost fifteen years has somehow made me just a little too dependent on this feature. I can honestly say that I don't do as much proofreading today as I used to a few years ago, and this really isn't a good thing.

It's probably overkill to proofread every single e-mail message before sending it out, but at the same time, isn't it embarrassing to send a message that uses the word "to" when it should be "too"?

Of course, I'm not saying that these errors are the fault of software features like AutoCorrect. Surely I'm the one that bears ultimate responsibility for the words I write. Perhaps I just need to consider disabling the AutoCorrect feature in Word and Outlook for a while -- or better yet, maybe I should look for an old IBM Selectric on ebay and subject myself to some exercises on that for a little while. Without a doubt, a few dozen pages on that -- and a couple of bottles of Liquid Paper, of course -- would cure whatever ailment I seem to have contracted in the last few years.


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