Smart Quotes in AutoCorrect Entries

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 24, 2017)

Eugene has created an AutoCorrect entry that replaces "ive" with "I've." The problem is that AutoCorrect always seems to do the replacing using a regular apostrophe instead of a smart apostrophe. If he types "I've," Word uses a smart apostrophe just fine, but if he lets AutoCorrect do the replacement, Word doesn't replace the regular apostrophe with a smart one. Eugene wonders why this is happening.

The "why" of what is going on is rooted in how Word implements the smart quotes feature of the program. You see, it is part of AutoFormat, which can be considered a portion of the AutoCorrect capabilities of the program. You can see this by displaying the AutoCorrect dialog box. To do this, display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In later versions of Word display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.) At the left side of the dialog box click Proofing, and then click AutoCorrect Options. The tab you want to look at on the dialog box is called AutoFormat As You Type. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

The control you want to pay attention to is the “Straight Quotes” with “Smart Quotes” check box. This controls whether Word converts your quote marks and apostrophes as you type them. That last part of the sentence is the key, however—as you type them. Thus, the very moment you press either the quote key (") or the apostrophe key ('), Word looks at the context of where you are typing—meaning if there is a space in front of the character or not—and physically replaces the straight version of the quote or apostrophe with the "smart" version, if the check box in the AutoFormat As You Type tab is selected.

When you choose to use an AutoCorrect entry, like Eugene is doing, whatever is in the "Replace" portion of the AutoCorrect entry is replaced with the "With" portion after the "Replace" portion is fully typed and some sort of punctuation or space is typed.

Let's consider Eugene's entry for a moment. The "Replace" portion of his AutoCorrect entry is "ive" and the "With" portion is "I've." That's all well and good; when he types "ive" as a full word—meaning it is preceded by a space and terminated by a space or a punctuation mark—then the replacement is made. (This is important, because you don't want Word to replace "ive" when it is part of another word, such as "hive" or "ivermectin.")

Because AutoCorrect is replacing a chunk of text (the "Replace" portion of the AutoCorrect entry) with a different chunk of text (the "With" portion of the AutoCorrect entry), Word doesn't consider the "With" portion as something you typed. Therefore, whatever you've configured on the AutoFormat As You Type tab doesn't come into place because you didn't really type what AutoCorrect stuck into your document.

Now that you understand the "why" of what is happening, let's take a look at how to correct it. The correction has to do with how the AutoCorrect entry was created in the first place—it actually contains a straight apostrophe and isn't changed when inserted, for reasons already described.

In Eugene's case, he needs to go into AutoCorrect and replace the AutoCorrect entry he previously created. He can do this by following these steps:

  1. In a document, type the word "I've." Make sure it includes the smart quote, as desired.
  2. Select the four characters that make up the word and press Ctrl+C. This copies the word to the Clipboard.
  3. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  4. Click Proofing at the left side of the screen.
  5. Click AutoCorrect Options. Word displays the AutoCorrect tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The AutoCorrect tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  7. In the list of AutoCorrect entries, locate and select the entry that has "ive" in the left column. The AutoCorrect entry should move up into the Replace and With boxes.
  8. Select the contents of the With box (make sure you select everything in the With box) and press Ctrl+V. This pastes "I've" (with the smart apostrophe) into the With box.
  9. Click on Replace. Word asks you if you are sure you want to replace the entry with the new information, to which you should reply in the affirmative.
  10. Close any open dialog boxes.

That should do it. Now, when Eugene types "ive" as a word, it should be replaced with "I've," including the smart apostrophe. This occurs because the AutoCorrect entry actually contains the smart apostrophe, not because of any setting on the AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10491) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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