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Tech Matters: Troubleshooting guide to autocorrect on iPhones

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Sep 7, 2022

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Leslie Meredith

Autocorrect has long been the subject of jokes and you may have experienced this for yourself. A mundane text message can turn into a hilarious one with a simple word change made by the autocorrect software on your phone. And the problem seems to be getting worse over the past year. If you find yourself plagued by autocorrect gone haywire or would like to send messages with fewer errors, this guide will explain how to make autocorrect and related features on your iPhone work for you rather than against you.

The idea for this column came from my daughter, who was complaining that her iPhone repeatedly changed the work okay to oooooojjjjjjk. If you're experiencing similar mystery words, the best thing to do is reset the autocorrect feature by resetting its dictionary. This will wipe everything the dictionary has learned so that you can make a fresh start. It will not affect anything else on your device.

Open "Settings," tap "General" and then tap "Reset." Select "Reset Keyboard Dictionary." You'll be asked for your device passcode and then tap "Reset" to confirm.

For those who have decided they want nothing to do with autocorrect, they can turn it off. Go to "Settings," tap "General" and then "Keyboard." Turn off the switch for "Auto-Correction." Now when you open a text message and start typing, words that aren't in the keyboard's dictionary will no longer be changed, but will be flagged as a possible misspelling. (If you don't want to be alerted to possible spelling errors, toggle off "Check Spelling" located below "Auto-Correction." Correction is entirely in your hands.

But of course, when autocorrect works properly, it is a boon to texters and there are a number of related features built into your phone's keyboard that can be of further help. Predictive text offers suggestions for your current word and the next word. You can tap the word to use it or continue typing on your own. You may have noticed predictive text is now used in Outlook and Gmail as well and can speed email openings and standard responses. Like with "Auto-Correct" and "Check Spelling," you can toggle "Predictive" on or off in the keyboard settings.

With autocorrect on, you can customize the dictionary by adding words and phrases you use so that they are not autocorrected or flagged as a misspelling. This keyboard feature is called Text Replacement and you can add selections by tapping the blue + icon in the upper corner. Type the word or phrase you want to add into the "Phrase" box. Leave the "Shortcut" box empty and tap "Save." Now, when you type the added text, it will no longer be flagged as incorrect.

There is another use for Text Replacement that allows you to use a shortcut for a phrase. While acronyms for texting are widely used, such as lol or brb, they can be confusing. If you're texting in a business setting, you're better off spelling out your message, but you can still use a shortcut like brb and enter it into the Text Replacement directory. Now, when you text "brb," "be right back" will automatically be typed for you. You can also use this for your name and other information you use frequently. Add your full name in the phrase field and use your initials as the shortcut. When you want your full name to appear in a text or email, just type the shortcut. To delete a shortcut from the list, swipe it to the left and tap "Delete."

Any saved words or shortcuts are added across all of your Apple devices as long as iCloud syncing is enabled. You will find them in built-in apps including Mail, Notes, Reminders, Contacts and Safari, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

So if you're having trouble with autocorrect, reset and then take the time to customize the dictionary and you'll find texting to be nearly error-free and faster than ever.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness, and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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