Using Word’s Autocorrect tool to work faster and better

AutoCorrect is one of Word’s most useful tools and a fantastic way to reduce the amount of typing you need to do. However, many people aren’t aware of it or think it just corrects misspellings, but it’s far more useful than that.

For example, in work people very often type the same terms over and over – perhaps the names of people in the organisation, the office address, etc. AutoCorrect lets you choose a short version of any text, and it will automatically insert the long version for you when you type the short version.

As an example let’s use the name and title of an imaginary CEO:

Jennifer Murphy-O’Sullivan, CEO, Feel Better Pharmaceuticals Ltd

This is 58 characters of fairly complex typing, complete with a hyphen, apostrophe and capital letters – plenty of scope for errors. The CEO’S personal assistant might type this several times a day. One option is to copy it from a previous piece, but there’s an easier way. Just choose a shortened version  – for example, here we’ll use Jennifer – and set AutoCorrect to insert the full version when you type the short version.

Here’s how to do it (on Windows 11 but previous versions are similar):

Select File from the Main Menu (top left hand side).

Select Options > Proofing.

Select AutoCorrect Options…


Click the Replace text as you type tick box.

Click the Plain text button if necessary.


Type the short version in the Replace box and the long version in the With box. So, in our example we type Jennifer in the Replace box, and the full version in the With box.

Click Add.

Click OK > OK.

To test, open a Word document and type Jennifer – AutoCorrect will fill in the full text for you. Note that AutoCorrect is case sensitive, so it won’t work if you type jennifer. You can also use AutoCorrect for words you often misspell, addresses, disclaimers, etc.

New all-island Directory of Irish Publishers

The first digital all-island Directory of Irish Publishers was launched in June 2023 by, a project led by the Royal Irish Academy and Trinity College Dublin.

The Directory is the first digital all-island guide to Irish publishing and lists 180+ book and journal publishers. From Cló Iar-Chonnacht to the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies to Nine Bean Rows cookery press, there's something here for everyone. Explore today at

Image by jadc01 from Pixabay.

New ISO standard for plain language expected this June

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is working on a new standard for plain language. ISO 24495 Plain language – Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines will provide high-level principles, guidelines and techniques to help writers produce communications that readers can understand and use. The new Standard is expected in June 2023.

The Standard should help ongoing work in the plain language area, an area that is developing year by year. The need to communicate people's rights and responsibilities clearly is increasingly recognised as a priority for governments and state bodies worldwide.

Photo by Tyler Lastovich.

New ways to describe our world: permacrisis, gaslighting and goblin mode

For a snapshot of our world each year there’s no need to look further than the dictionaries’ choices of Word of the Year.

In the Irish and UK context, some of the seismic events of recent years are reflected in the words chosen by the major dictionaries for 2016 (the first year of Brexit and Trump) and 2020 (the first year of the Covid crisis). For 2016 and 2020:

Collins Dictionary chose 'Brexit' and 'lockdown'
Oxford English Dictionary chose 'post-truth' and 'lockdown'
Merriam-Webster Dictionary chose 'surreal' and 'pandemic'.

For 2022, the choices are again intriguing: Collins chose ‘permacrisis’, Oxford ‘goblin mode’ and Merriam-Webster ‘gaslighting’.

These are three relatively new terms invented to respond to modern conditions and events. ‘Goblin mode’, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations’, first appeared around 2009. ‘Gaslighting’ is even more recent, having been around for about a decade, while ‘permacrisis’ is a brand new word, believed to have first appeared in 2022.

Plain language: more than words

Our brains are amazing. They keep us safe and allow us to relate to others. They enable us to think and feel. They create memories and connect new and old information. And our brain is never more amazing than when we read.

When we read our brain must do multiple mental tasks and keep track of huge amounts of information at the same time. Reading involves:

·         multiple sub-processes in the brain

·         activation in multiple areas of the brain

·         linguistic and non-linguistic processing

·         interconnectivity of the cognitive and emotional networks

·         visual recognition of letters

·         comprehension at the discourse level

·         articulation.

Reading is a complex skill, as described by neurobiologist Siusana Kweldju: ‘reading involves all of the regions of the brain, because it involves all cognitive functioning of humans -- verbal and non-verbal’. The cognitive functions involved include ‘attention, planning, abstract reasoning, predicting, inhibition, use of strategies, problem solving, working memory, and long-term storage memory and retrieval of vocabulary and concepts, the procedural skill of retrieval, the use of grammatical knowledge, and the motor mechanism for visual processing, and production’.

In simple terms, in order to read and understand a piece of text, our brain must recognise letters and words, apply grammatical knowledge, figure out the grammatical (syntactical) meaning, and then place this in the context of our world knowledge and make inferences of the writer’s intended meaning. We must hold specific pieces of information in working memory while at the same time retrieving information from long-term memory. We must use both linguistic and non-linguistic processing, involving the interconnection of the cognitive and emotional networks.

What emerges from this bird’s eye view of how the human brain reads is that clear writing is about more than using common words and short sentences. Essentially, writers need to reduce cognitive load – the effort that readers must make. Plain language practitioners use all sorts of complex measurements, techniques and rules, but fundamentally, reducing reader effort requires two things:

1) organising and connecting information clearly, and

2) using familiar words and constructs.

Modern brain imaging and research into artificial intelligence have shown in detail what regions and networks in the brain are involved in reading. Scientists can even see greater brain activation when a sentence is ‘incongruent’ – unexpected or difficult in some way. And studies have also shown that text that demands too much effort leads to demotivation – in plain terms, the reader stops reading. Ultimately the goal of plain language is to keep readers reading by minimising effort and maximising information gain.


‘Neurobiology research findings: How the brain works during reading’, Siusana Kweldju, The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), PASAA 50, July - December 2015, 

‘Evaluating Text Quality: The continuum from text-focused to reader-focused methods’, Karen A. Schriver,

'A 10-minute intro to scientific support for using plain language', Cheryl Stephens, 

Get your climate change message across with this great jargon buster

To change people's behaviour, people need to understand what they're being asked to do. The Government of Ireland has published a great new resource explaining climate issues in plain language.

From 'electric vehicles' to 'carbon footprint' to 'retrofitting', the explanations are all here. Better still, you can easily search for a term under headings such as 'Home', 'Transport', etc.

Developed with input from the Environmental Protection Agency, Comhairle na nÓg and the National Adult Literacy Agency, this is a great resource for teachers, activists and everyone concerned about protecting and restoring our planet.

Find the jargon buster here: 

How to write a CV that recruiters will want to read

Imagine your company is hiring. Great! Now imagine you’re the person who has to review all the applications. Mmmm. So, what would you like to see when you start opening those files? What would make you dismiss an application straight away? What would stand out? Think from the other side of the table and it’s easier to see what to do – and what not to do – when writing a job application.

1.   Name files logically

You’re just starting your task of reviewing the applications. When you open your file manager with all the applications you have to screen, do you want to see 10 files called Cover letter.doc? Why not? Because to screen applicants efficiently you’ll need to rename all the files first. As an applicant, think of the recruiter and avoid giving them extra work by calling your file something logical like Grace Murphy CV Proj Manager.doc.

2.   Keep it short

Staying in your role as recruiter – do you want to wade through chunks of text? Probably not. ‘Keep it short’ is the most important rule of all in this context. A CV is not a thesis or a novel. Give all information relevant to the job you’re applying for, describing education and work experience succinctly. This means giving all relevant information but in as concise a way as possible.

3.   Tailor your application to the company

Tailoring your application is important; it shows you have spent time considering how your skills match the requirements. Recruiters want to know what you can do for them, not just what you can do or have done.

Recruiters to a financial or pharmaceutical company don’t need to know you worked in a bar during college. So unless you’re just starting out, don’t list this type of work, unless of course it is specifically relevant to the role. If you want to account for a couple of short-term jobs together, put something like ‘General retail/hotel/bar work experience 2016–2018’.

4.   Use bullet points

Bullet points are your friend in job applications. Recruiters have minimal time to spend on each application, so use bullet points in most sections of the CV. For example, instead of:

  • In my role as a project worker from June to December 2018 I had many important functions. One of my main duties was to take detailed minutes of the daily project meetings. This involved typing up the minutes and sending them to the team. Another task was to proofread reports from the team. I was the first reviewer, which meant I had to carefully examine each one and check anything that wasn’t clear …


  Project worker, June–December 2018


·         Taking meeting minutes, proofreading reports

Although the first format is clear, it’s too long and the recruiter will likely skim it without taking the information in.

5.   Be specific

It’s tempting sometimes in CVs to be vague, especially if you’re not sure exactly how to describe an aspect of a job. However, the recruiter is looking for specific qualifications and experience, so if you have these you need to be clear that you do. For example, if you have good administration experience within a research team, instead of:

·         Key member of team leading research with partner organisations and educational institutions


·         Administrator with research team

6.   Use simple language and avoid jargon

You may have the experience the recruiter wants, but if you hide it in jargon the person reviewing your application might miss it. For example, what does this mean:

·         Took a leading role in strategic thinking around developing a future expansion framework

Maybe it means something like:

·         Took part in planning the expansion of the company, including putting forward ideas and writing parts of report

If so, they’re good skills to have. The recruiter doesn’t have time to decipher convoluted writing like the example here, so use simple language and get your message across.

7.   Mention any gaps in dates in the cover letter

Gaps can occur in CVs for any number of reasons – travel, family, illness, study – and recruiters are used to seeing them. Whatever the reason it needs to be explained. If you leave a gap the recruiter will probably query it at or before interview. Again, being upfront in the CV leaves no room for doubt and gives the recruiter one more reason to keep your CV in the pile.

8.   Use the interests section well

You may be the life and soul of the party but your CV doesn't care. Use the interests section to briefly mention any major achievements in sports, the arts or whatever, or to indicate that you are a rounded, responsible person by choosing one or two things you are genuinely involved in. If you volunteer you could mention that here. Don’t feel you need to put in interests if there’s nothing you particularly want to mention.

Takeaway: Say clearly and succinctly how your skills and experience match the recruiter’s requirements, and above all, don’t put the recruiter to sleep!

For a professional review of your CV/cover letter, get in touch at

Capturing and keeping your audience

Here's an extract from my new blog, written for the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders & Indexers of Ireland, which sets out nine guidelines for capturing - and keeping - your audience:

Write to allow scanning
With so many people reading on-screen nowadays, reading has evolved toward scanning. Scanning can be described as ‘a quick review of text with the intention of taking in as much information as possible in order to make a decision as to whether to read more closely’. Write to allow scanning by using a clear structure, numerous subheadings, lists for complex material, and short paragraphs.

Read the full post here:

2020 and the importance of being plain

2020 has left many of us sadder and wiser. One thing this year has taught us is that clear communication is vital – even a matter of life and death. A quick google reveals endless articles about ‘confusing’ and ‘unclear’ messaging on Covid. While before we might have seen the idea of plain language as an ideal, now it is clear that organisations that deal with the public need to communicate in a way that is clear, understandable on a first reading, and unambiguous.

In Ireland this new recognition of the importance of plain language ties in with the commitment in the 2020 Programme for Government to the use of plain language in communications from the public sector.

Plain language is not just easy to read, it allows readers to do three things:

find what they need
understand what they find the first time they read it
use what they find to meet their needs.

So, plain language is not some airy-fairy concept – it has real practical value. Organisations that adopt plain language see cost savings. People who deal with state bodies have easier (and fairer) access to services and easier engagement.

The field of plain language is surprisingly complex for such a new area of study. But for writers who want the basics, following these guidelines is a good place to start:

1 Keep sentences as short as possible
2 Be concise and direct
3 Use familiar words instead of unusual words
4 Use the active rather than the passive as far as possible
5 Keep the reader in mind at all times
6 Keep plain language principles in mind at the design, writing and editing stages
7 Make sure that text is well organised and logically laid out.

I wrote this piece in plain language, and the Microsoft Word readability tool gave it the following scores:

• Flesch reading ease: 59.5
• Flesch-Kincaid grade level: 8.6
• Passive sentences: 0.0%

A score of 59.5 ranks the piece just under: ‘easily understood by 13- to 15-year-olds’. This is a reasonable score for a piece aimed at a professional audience. The grade level score of 8.6 means that around 80% of people in the US would understand the text. The calculations are basic, but they give a useful idea of how readable a piece of text is.

Read more:

World Health Organization: Plain Language,
Government of Ireland, Plain English Style Guide for the Public Service,
Plain Language Network:

Image source: M Nurromad, Pixabay

Words of the year: 2020 leaves dictionaries speechless

Lockdown has been named word of the year by Collins Dictionaries.

However, Oxford English Dictionaries says 2020 is ‘a year that has left us speechless’. They found themselves unable to pick just one word as they usually do. Instead they have picked several, based on their analysis of billions of words in newspapers, books, web pages and other written content.

The words chosen for 2020 include Covid-19, WFH, lockdown, circuit-breaker, support bubbles, keyworkers, furlough, Black Lives Matter and bushfires. OED also says that use of the word pandemic increased by an incredible 57,000% in 2020.

Casper Grathwohl, the president of Oxford Dictionaries, said: "I've never witnessed a year in language like the one we've just had. The Oxford team was identifying hundreds of significant new words and usages as the year unfolded, dozens of which would have been a slam dunk for Word of the Year at any other time.'

Guidelines for writing inclusively

People working in the community and voluntary sector and in the public sector need to pay particular attention to writing inclusively.

Writing inclusively means writing to include all humans, and not excluding individuals or groups whether by accident or design. Inclusive writing is important because: ‘Language is a reflection of the attitudes, behaviours and norms within a society. It also shapes people's attitudes as to what is “normal” and acceptable’ (European Commission).

According to the National Disability Authority of Ireland, language should ‘reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people’.

Research has shown that designating people by their individuality and common humanity first helps other people to view them in a more neutral way. Relevant attributes include gender, race, disability, religion and sexual orientation.

What we want to do is talk about different groups of people in a way that acknowledges differences but remains neutral. The following sets out some general guidelines on how to talk about various groups of people in an inclusive way.

1. Research how people prefer to be identified

Research how the people in the communities you are writing about prefer to be identified. Avoid terms that remove personhood, or that define people by a disability or similar attribute.

2. Refer to the specific attribute only when necessary

This guideline speaks for itself; if an attribute has no relevance in the context, then leave it out.

3. Use person-first language

An important tenet for human rights organisations is that labels are for files, not for people. When we need to refer to specific attributes of groups, we emphasise the person first and the attribute after: ‘people with disabilities’ and not ‘the disabled’; ‘people from low-income backgrounds’, not ‘the poor’.               

4. Use positive language

When we use a phrase such as ‘non-Catholic’, we are defining someone by what they are not rather than what they are. Instead of using ‘non-Catholic’ use Buddhist, Methodist or whatever is relevant. Rather than ‘non-Irish’ use the person’s place of origin.

5. Avoid stereotyping

All of us tend to stereotype to some extent, depending on our life experiences, and we do so unthinkingly, without any intention of excluding people. However, negative stereotypes should be avoided. Gender is a common aspect of stereotyping: ‘The doctor updated his records’; ‘The secretary rushed through her work.’ Avoid stereotyping by social class and age group also.

6. Dealing with particular attributes

Gender Gendered language should be used only when it is relevant to know the gender of the person being discussed. Other aspects include using neutral nouns where possible, for example, ‘chair’ rather than ‘chairman’. The singular ‘they/their’ can be used to replace the more awkward ‘he/she, s/he, his/her’.

Age The basic rule applies when referring to older people: the best way is to refer to them simply as ‘older people’. This focuses on personhood in a way that other phrases do not.

Race Regarding race, again refer to it only if it is necessary to do so. Say ‘Black person’ rather than ‘Black’, but if you do this then also say ‘White person’. It is not that we want to remove all references to race, because race is an important aspect of identity. Rather we want to treat it as an attribute like any other, to be used in the same way for people of all races.

Disability or illness 

Many terms that were used for a long time in the area of disability are outdated and no longer acceptable. Be aware of paternalism when discussing disability, and make sure to use person-first language. We now speak of ‘people with an intellectual/physical disability’ rather than people being ‘mentally handicapped’ or ‘disabled’. It is also best to avoid loaded words such as ‘suffers’ or ‘victim’.


To some people, paying attention to inclusive language is political correctness gone mad. To others it is a genuine attempt to discuss issues in a way that avoids being hurtful. It seems worthwhile to make that effort.