Word Processing Shortcuts for Character Names


If you use word processing software, such as MS Word or Writer for Open Office, you may want to make use of some features that are excellent resources for writers. No matter which software you use, you should be able to use your Help file to find the following features, or something similar.

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Automatically Typing Your Characters' Names

One of my favourite features is AutoText. AutoText matches the first three or four letters of common words, phrases, or paragraphs contained in its databank, and suggests them as you type. Pressing Enter when the word you require flashes above your insertion point will fill in the rest of that word for you. You can add to or edit the words and phrases in the AutoText databank.

In Word 2003, the AutoText feature is found under the Insert menu on your Menu Bar. (Click here for Word 2007)

To turn AutoText on or off, check or uncheck the box next to "Show AutoComplete suggestions".

To add words or phrases to AutoText, type them into the available box. You can also copy the words from your document and paste them in (handy for words or names that contain special characters like "ç" or "ñ").

I add all my characters' names and the location names to the AutoText tool. It prevents misspelling of a name, and saves time, especially with surnames that don't necessarily get used throughout the book. It is very easy to go from Mackenzie to McKenzie, for example, if a few months have passed since you first decided on the name. And even if your shortcut was "mac" originally, and you're now trying to use "mc", a quick check of the AutoText list will show you where you've gone wrong. It can be even quicker than opening up your notes file.

Dictionary and AutoCorrect

If some of your characters' names are too short to make the AutoText option worthwhile, another good way to ensure that you're spelling their names consistently is to add the names to your software's dictionary (if they're not already included as a common name), and then to use the AutoCorrect option to correct every other variation of that name, replacing it with the spelling you've chosen for your character. For example, if your character's name is "Cate", you can create entries for "Kate" and "Cait" that are automatically replaced with your choice of "Cate".

If the dictionary does not include a name that you've typed, it will underline the word in red if you have your spell checker turned on. To add the name, right click on it and select "Add to Dictionary".

In Word 2003, the AutoCorrect options are under the Tools menu. (Click here for Word 2007) Type the incorrect spelling in the "Replace:" box, and the correct form in the "With:" box.

Another more common use for the AutoCorrect tool is for those words that you find you just never spell correctly. If I use a word often and find I misspell it more than three or four times, I add it to my AutoCorrect dictionary. The easiest way to do this is by right-clicking on the red-underlined incorrectly spelt word, select AutoCorrect in the floating menu, and then select the correct word (if available) from the AutoCorrect drop-down menu.

This article was first published on The Blood-Red Pencil. Copyright © Elsa Neal, 2009.

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Word 2007

AutoText and AutoCorrect have been removed from the standard access features. Word 2007 users must first add this feature to the Quick Access Toolbar above the Office Ribbon as follows:

  • Office Button >> Word Options
  • Customize
  • Under Choose Commands From, select All Commands
  • Select AutoCorrect and click Add
  • Select AutoText and click Add

To use either of these features simply click the new button that you have added above the Office Ribbon. The options are the same as for Word 2003.

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Elle Carter Neal

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and the teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job. Join Elle on her new publishing adventure.