Text expansion is a pretty simple concept: you type in a very short string of characters and they automatically transform into a longer word or phrase. If you have phrases you use a lot (or something that requires especially fiddly typing or formatting), text expansion software can speed up document creation.
Most Microsoft Word users don’t know they can use Word’s AutoCorrect feature to do virtually anything a dedicated text expansion application can do. It can even save formatted AutoCorrect text entries.1
Take, for example, the abbreviation for the word ibid. Yes, it’s a short word, but you have to underline or italicize it every time. Hit CTRL-I, I, d, [period], CTRL-I often enough, and your hands will start to cramp in the middle of your brief. Using AutoCorrect to keep your fingers on the letter keys can help.
First, type the word or phrase you want to appear in your text (formatting included, if that’s important). Then, select just that word/phrase (and not any end-of-paragraph characters that Word embeds into the text). Clicking the Show/Hide button (looks like a paragraph symbol) in the middle of the Home tab will show you the hidden codes within the text.
Then, click on the File tab and go to Options:
Along the left-hand side of the Options dialog box, click Proofing, then AutoCorrect Options:
That will bring up the AutoCorrect dialog box:
Since you’ve already got your word/phrase selected, that’s already populated in the With field.
- If you want your expanded text formatted, click the radio button next to Formatted Text. Otherwise, select Plain Text.
- Type the text string you want transformed into the expanded text into the Replace field. Some users recommend prefixing it with a symbol such as “@” or “=” to make that entry truly unique. For example, you don’t want to use “id.” as the shortcut because Word might replace the word “said.” with “saId.“
- Click Add to add the entry.
- Click OK to finish.
Try out your new AutoCorrect entry to ensure it works.
Unless otherwise noted, all instructions and screenshots are from Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows. ↩