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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing Tools: Disable Autocorrect

     An urgent twitter went out from an author one night about Word's proclivities for crashing. She went to the web. She got suggestions from Twitter, and I even tossed a couple of ideas her way. Fortunately, she resolved the problem. For now. It's a problem I have seen and heard complaints about for far too long. MS Word, despite being an industry standard, is not the most reliable performer.
     I'm not out to blame Microsoft or its programmers; however, I'm sure everyone out there has had headaches when it has come to trying to get Word to behave, and as per Murphy, it generally chooses the worst possible time to act up.
     I've talked about automatic file backup here, but there are other things to look at. Word has autocorrect and automatic spell and grammar check options that tend to slow things down. Honestly, I had forgotten about these features because I disable them as soon as I install the software. I have found that there are too many rules in both spelling and grammar that Word just doesn't know, so I don't want the program to break my writing flow by alerting me to a misspelled word.
     But I do recall, in the distant past of my memory and youth, that these features can cause problems for Word. They slow the software down, increasing its CPU and memory footprint. This can be compounded if you are in spell-check or track changes mode as the computer must redraw the entire screen every time you move on to another error. Re-drawn complete with all the arrows, comments, highlights, and red and green squigglies.
     Why does it bog down? Well, mostly my theory is that Word was not designed for writers. Word was designed for business writing, by and large, and while it can handle business and school reports just fine, it doesn't do so well at 100,000+ word novels. Spell and grammar checking all of those words just causes a memory drain on the system. So at least experiment with disabling these autocorrect features to see if it works for you. For those with Word 2007 and newer, go to:

Office button (file in 2010) > Word Options > Proofing. Uncheck "Check spelling as you type" and "Mark grammar errors as you type"

     Older than 2007, go to:

Tools > Options > Autocorrect.

     I hope to, in future posts, tackle some of the other common difficulties writers have with Word, and how to correct them.
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