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Microsoft Word:
Nine Ways to Stop Annoying Automation
in Word Documents

how to turn off automatic changes in a Microsoft Word documentOne of the most common complaints about Microsoft Word is its insistence on behaving like it is smarter than we are. Even more experienced Word users often just live with Word’s automatic pranks including making mysterious changes, inserting text you didn’t ask for, and taking control of your formatting, because we don’t know how to disable them. It’s not always the features themselves that are annoying it’s just not knowing how to control them.

Here are some common automated actions that Word tries to pull on unsuspecting users, along with a fix for each one.

Accessing the Automatic Options:

  1. Word 2010: To get to the AutoCorrect dialog box, click the File tab and then pick Options from the bottom of the screen.

    Word 2007: To open the AutoCorrect dialog box, click the Office button, select Word Options at the bottom of the menu.
  2. Pick Proofing from list of choices at the left. On the right, click the AutoCorrect Options button, and Word will open the AutoCorrect dialog box containing the AutoCorrect and AutoFormat As You Type tabs.

#1: Word changes capitalization of text as you type it.Microsoft Word automatic options, how to stop automatic you don't want in a Word document
Does it seem like Word randomly changes the capitalization or spelling of text in a document? AutoCorrect is to blame. As the name indicates, AutoCorrect automatically corrects the spelling of common misspelled words but also makes other changes including capitalizing the first letter in a sentence, table cell, or line of text. To review your choices, follow the steps above for your version of Microsoft Word to open the AutoCorrect dialog box, choose the AutoCorrect tab and uncheck any option that gets in the way of typing your text. Some of the actions that you might want to turn off include:

  • Correct TWo INitial CApitals
  • Capitalize first letter of sentences
  • Capitalize first letter of table cells
  • Capitalize names of days
  • Correct accidental usage of cAPS LOCK key

#2: Word unexpectedly inserts symbols such as a copyright character.
The AutoCorrect feature in Word is designed to automatically replace more than 500 spelling errors or typing shortcuts with a corrected version. To locate the annoying automation, pick the AutoCorrect tab, select the unwanted entry in the Replace column at the left, and choose Delete. For instance, if you use an outline format with (a), (b), etc., then you might want to remove the entry for (c) which automatically changes to a copyright symbol. It usually makes sense to keep the Replace text as you type option selected so it can automatically correct common misspellings.

NOTE: For the next seven annoyances, open the AutoCorrect dialog box, and choose the AutoFormat As You Type tab.

#3: Word automatically adds numbers or bullets at the beginning of lines as you type them.
Have you ever tried to create your own numbered list or outline and watched the numbering or formatting change once you press [Enter] for the next line? This is a huge annoyance for anyone that wants to build a custom layout for an outline rather than working with the choices in Word. To prevent this, deselect the options for Automatic bulleted lists and Automatic numbered lists; both are found in the Apply as you type group.

#4: Word creates a hyperlink when you type a Web page address or email address.
Do you type your email address or website into a document and then watch as it suddenly changes to blue underlined text (a hyperlink)? If automatic hyperlinks are more annoying than helpful, uncheck the option Internet and network paths with hyperlinks found under the Replace as you type grouping.

#5: Word converts fractions into formatted symbols.
Do you ever enter fractions such as 1/4 only to see them changed to a character? This automatic choice is easy to ignore if you don't type fractions frequently but can be a nuisance if you frequently use fractions as only the most common ones have an associated symbol. To turn off this action so your fractions maintain a consistent look, deselect the option Fractions (1/2) with fraction character located under the Replace as you type grouping.

#6: Word turns straight quote marks and apostrophes into curly characters.
Word automatically supports typographically correct quote marks called smart quotes or open/close quotes. If you prefer straight quote marks, move to the Replace as you type grouping to turn off the option for Straight quotes with smart quotes.

#7: Word changes ordinal numbers such as 1st and 2nd to superscript.
If you don't like the superscript entries, uncheck the option Ordinals (1st) with superscript in the Replace as you type grouping.

#8: When you type hyphens, Word inserts typographical dashes.
When you type a word, two hyphens, and another word with no spaces between them, Word will automatically convert the hyphens to an em dash (longer). If you type a space before and after one or two hyphens, it will convert them to an en dash (shorter). To disable this feature, move to the Replace as you type section and deselect Hypens (--) with dash ( ).

#9: When you type three or more equal signs, hyphens, or even asterisks, Word inserts a border line across the width of your document.
This is an especially sneaky action that can be turned off by unselecting the option for Border lines located within the Apply as you type grouping.

Quick Tip: To customize Word so it works for you and not against you, most Word users should uncheck all of the options in the last 2 sections under the AutoFormat As You Type tab. If you work with multiple level outlines, you might want to select the option to Set left- and first-indent with tabs and backspaces. Turn off choices in the first section as desired. Pick OK to finish.

Easy solution: Undo
If you haven’t had a chance to disable an automatic feature (or you want to leave it enabled and override it only occasionally), remember that pressing [Ctrl] + Z or clicking the Undo button right after Word makes a change will undo that automatic action.

© Dawn Bjork Buzbee, MCT, The Software Pro®

Dawn Bjork Buzbee is The Software Pro® and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist (MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a software speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 8 books.

This article and more can be reprinted at no charge in your publications and website with copyright and attribution.
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Hot Word Tip
Press [Ctrl] + Z to Undo any automatic changes you don't want in a Microsoft Word document.
Did You Know?
AutoCorrect can also be used intentionally to create your own Word shorthand and shortcuts.
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