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Autocorrect Messing Up Your Texts, Emails? Here’s What to Do About It

That annoying but helpful feature has several workarounds

autocorrect fails

Barry Sands received a curious text from a colleague recently: “My power and wife just went out,” the message read.

Sands, a senior vice president at a New York City customer experience agency, says the sender quickly caught the mistake and followed up. The word “wife” was mistakenly substituted for “Wi-Fi.”

Chalk the episode up to an all-too familiar issue: autocorrect misbehaving again.

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The purpose behind the autocorrection feature in software is to automatically suggest corrections for spelling or grammar in emails, texts and other documents you type on a phone or computer. But as Sands and countless others have discovered through the years, autocorrect often introduces its own set of errors — some comical, some embarrassing, some mortifying and some that are, um, unprintable.

My colleague Jefferson Graham says when photographers refer to a photo, it’s often in the context of a “shot” they’ve captured. But Graham, a photographer himself, says the “o” in the word is replaced with another vowel too many times. We’ll leave that one up to your imagination.

Your keyboard may have a mind of its own

Sometimes a letter left out of a word can completely change the vibe and, unfortunately, come across in an unintentionally suggestive way. Autocorrect slaughters names, too.

“I once sent a message to someone named Sophia, and her name was autocorrected to ‘dope,’” says Julianne Slovak, a New York–area freelance writer.

And often the “correction” makes no sense at all, such as when I recently wrote an email in Microsoft Outlook in which “hot tub” weirdly changed to “hit run.”

The problem is so prevalent that an Autocorrect Fails group on Facebook has some 11,400 members. It provides a “place to post those sometimes embarrassing and inappropriate, but always hilarious mishaps made by that autocorrect feature we all love to hate.”

One user posted an image with the statement, “I hope the guy who invented Autocorrect burns in Hello.” The “damnyouautocorrect” account on Instagram shows images of other egregious examples and has 22,600 followers.

The etiquette on autocorrects

Should you point out an autocorrect mistake moments after discovering you sent a message with one? Or, better yet, should you inquire about such an error in a message someone sent to you?

“If you can’t figure out what the correct thing was supposed to be, then I think [you should say something to the person],” says Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and coauthor of Emily Post Etiquette, The Centennial Edition. She also has her own bouts with autocorrect.

“For some reason my autocorrect doesn’t want to recognize T-O-O as a word,” she says. “Everything is just T-O, and maybe it tries T-W-O.” But based on the context, “that’s a pretty easy one to decipher and figure out what somebody actually meant.”

Another common mistake: that famous contraction error when “its” becomes “it’s” and vice versa.

Most people can indeed relate to these mistakes since they’ve likely encountered their own. But choosing to flag or correct an autocorrection also depends on the person you’re communicating with. Does the person have a sense of humor? Is it a close pal or relative or someone you want to have a relationship with?

You don’t want a future employer to think you’re sloppy or unprofessional. But you don’t want to overdo it either.

“In my business contacts, I don’t resend 10 emails to get a typo corrected,” Post says. “You want to be forgiving, and business is a place where you don’t want to make mistakes. I think there’s a balance between those two things.”

We all hastily type away with abandon at times and tend to hit the send button prematurely. This also applies to using voice to dictate an email or text. The best advice is to slow down and proofread any outgoing missives.

The good news is you can avoid an autocorrect blunder.

You can recall a message

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Apple Mail, iMessage. Apple added undo settings to the Mail app on its iPhone, iPad and Mac, provided you have iOS 16, iPad OS 16 or macOS Ventura or later. On an iPhone you get a good amount of time to undo messages.

• Go to Settings ⚙︎ | Mail | Undo Send Delay.

• From the menu, check off 10 seconds20 seconds or 30 seconds. Or choose Off if you don’t want the Undo Send option.

Apple will also let you retrieve an iMessage you send through the Messages app for up to 2 minutes after sending it. Touch and hold a message bubble and tap Undo Send.

But you and the recipient must be using a device with iOS 16, iPadOS 16 or macOS Ventura or later. Otherwise, the person at the other end may still see the message. The same goes if you send a text message to a device that’s not an Apple.

Google’s Gmail. If you catch a mistake in a message that does get out, you may be able to retrieve it if you act quickly. Users of Gmail can recall an email through an Undo Send feature. At the bottom of a message you just sent, tap the Undo button.

Before you decide to send another message, you also can change the time you have to retract them. If you don’t, the default time is 5 seconds. 

• Go to Gmail Settings ⚙︎ | See all settings | Undo Send.

• In the Send Cancellation Period drop-down menu, you can choose among 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds.

• Scroll down and click Save Changes.

Microsoft’s A similar feature is available for, but you have less time to retrieve the fateful message.

• Click Settings ⚙︎ | View all Outlook settings | Mail, which is on the left rail if it’s not already selected.

• Click Compose and reply | Undo Send.

• Drag the slider to a period of up to 10 seconds to choose the wait time before Outlook will send a message.

• Tap Save.

Keep in mind, the length of time you have to undo a message is about the same it will take to reel it back in.

Apple lets you edit what you’ve already sent


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You not only can retrieve a sent iMessage, albeit within a relatively short time, you also can edit a message you’ve already sent. You have up to 15 minutes and up to five times to do so, though again, you and the recipient need the latest Apple software.

• Touch and hold a message bubble and tap Edit.

• Type your changes and tap either the checkmark in a blue circle to send the edited message or the X in a gray circle to revert to the original.

Note that the message will indicate it has been edited.

How to disable autocorrect

If you don’t trust autocorrect at all, you can simply turn it off.

On an Android smartphone such as the Google Pixel 7:

• Open Settings ⚙︎ | System | Languages & input.

• Tap On-screen keyboard | Gboard.

• On the next menu, choose Text Correction | Auto-correction and tap the switch to turn it gray and disable the feature.

Among other text correction options you’ll see here is an “Undo auto-correct on backspace” switch that will let you return to the original text by hitting the backspace key.

On Samsung devices, go to Settings ⚙︎ | General management | Samsung Keyboard settings | Auto replace and tap the switch to turn off the toggle, changing it from blue to gray.

On an iPhone:

• Choose Settings ⚙︎ | General | Keyboard.

• Find the Auto-Correction switch and tap it so the green indicator turns to gray. This shows it’s off.

On a Windows PC:

• Open Settings ⚙︎ | Time & language | Typing.

• Click the Autocorrect misspelled words switch so the blue indicator turns to gray.

If all else fails, you can always “dump on the phone to discuss.”


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