Barbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
I didn’t mean that! It’s a Miss Print.
Updated: Dec 2, 2022
How often do you read a text or an email and encounter an unintended message like in the image above?
Meet Miss Print, AKA autocorrect, who causes similar types of miscommunication as Miss Spelled, but we get to share the blame with technology.
Raise your hand if autocorrect has gotten you in trouble with miscommunication?
Yep. Me too.
Like the day when I texted a friend about taking a group of ladies from church to visit my mother-in-law, whose name is Bev. When I typed B-e-v on my phone, autocorrect changed it to “never.” After all, n is next to b on the keyboard. Heck, I may have typed n-e-v without realizing it.
Of course, I sent the text without rereading it. Until… I wondered why I hadn’t heard back. Uh-oh… Instead of saying “Bev was excited about the visit,” it said “Never excited about the visit,” which almost got it canceled.
Autocorrect – one of those technologies that can be both a blessing and a curse.
Let’s learn more about autocorrect and how to maximize its benefits and minimize the potential for miscommunication.
What is autocorrect and how does it work?
Autocorrect is defined as “a computer feature that attempts to correct the spelling of a word as the user types.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/autocorrect)
Autocorrect originated in 1993 with the work of Microsoft programmer Dean Hachamovitch. He created code to correct misspellings using the glossary built into Word.
When the space bar is pressed to signal the completion of typing a word the software checks the spelling and if it doesn’t find a suitable word in the built-in dictionary it suggests an alternative.
The autocorrect feature on smartphones also uses an algorithm based on the proximity of other letters on the keyboard, thus my experience of Bev becoming never.
Have you heard of the Cupertino Effect?
The Cupertino effect refers to instances in which autocorrect guesses the wrong word. The origin of the term goes back to the early days of autocorrect when the word cooperation was changed to Cupertino, which is a city in the Silicon Valley area of California where Apple is located.
Check out these examples of autocorrect errors making it into print. All too often the incorrect words are impolite as well as incorrect, such as cooperation becoming copulation or prosciutto becoming prostitute.
Can we blame technology for Miss Print?
We can and we do. According to the State of Miscommunication Survey, which asked employees whether they believed tech-assisted or in-person communication was more susceptible to miscommunication:
46% of the respondents felt technology-assisted communication resulted in more miscommunication compared to…
11% who felt in-person communication was most susceptible, and
43% felt they were equally susceptible.
Ultimately, it is our responsibility to check our work. Autocorrect has made us a bit lazy. We know that we can rely on it to correct our errors and it seems to read our minds. Because it is correct more often than incorrect, we don’t take the time to check our work.
How can we prevent Miss Prints?
The solution is easy. Never press send without rereading every message. Twice.
Proofreading always pays!
Need a good laugh? Search for “funny autocorrect fails.” Most are too rude to reprint.
“I do my best proofreading after I hit send.” ~ Seen on a meme, unknown author
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