Auto-Correct: Friend Or Foe?

by • February 26, 2014

autocorrect, texting, spelling, GrammarlySince our ancestors first started chiseling words on stone tablets, human beings have been thinking of ways to make writing easier. From writing on papyrus to the Gutenberg printing press, our goal is to use less time and energy to communicate.

The latest incarnation in lazy writing is “auto-correct.” Rather than spend the .001 extra seconds moving our stubby fingers over a cell phone screen, we will type in the bare minimum of text and let the magic phone wizards handle the rest. (At least, I think that’s how it works. I’m not a scientist or anything.)

At best, auto-correct turns a minimal number of clicks into delightful, eye-pleasing prose. Your friends and family will marvel at your concise and witty texts. At worst, it makes you sound like you completely forgot the English language. And your friends and family will think you either have a massive head wound or your phone was stolen by a tech-hungry chimpanzee.

Let’s take a look at some contrasting examples:

Sarah is running late for dinner with her best friend Maggie. Sitting in the back of the cab, she hurriedly fires off a series of partial words, letting her iPhone fill in the blanks. Sarah takes a quick look at the result to make sure the text is okay before sending it:

“Maggie, traffic is a nightmare. I’ll be there in 15 minutes. First round is on me!”

Maggie appreciates her Sarah’s thoughtful text and their friendship lives to see another day.

Mark, on the other hand, is flying into Cleveland to meet a new client. Unfortunately, the plane’s crew needs to de-ice the wings and the flight will be late. As the plane dawdles on the tarmac, Mark curses his fate and whips out his phone. In his blind rage at the weather and the state of de-icing technology, he makes some mistakes. He means to type:

“Apologies. I’m stuck on the runway. Ice on the wings!”

But instead, the auto-correct changes it to:

“Apologize! I’ll strike you. Run away. I’ll swing!”

The client, horrified by Mark’s threats of violence, calls Mark’s boss to complain. Mark gets fired and spends the rest of his days working in a traveling carnival, rigging ring-toss games and wondering what happened to his life. (No offense to carnies and other circus-folk. Mark is just bitter.)

What can we learn from Mark and Sarah’s experiences? Only one thing, really: Check your texts before sending them. In business, this is doubly important. Your friends may laugh at a texting gaffe; your boss will not be so forgiving.

Heed this simple rule and you can avoid Mark’s fate of being a bitter carny. (Unless you’re into that sort of thing. In that case, have at it.)