Damn autocorrect! (What’s really going on inside your iPhone)

Apple’s autocorrect system, used most frequently in iPhones while texting, has been introducing annoying, sometimes hilarious, typos and grammatical errors. Here’s why.

Damn autocorrect! (What's really going on inside your iPhone)
Damn autocorrect! (What’s really going on inside your iPhone)

Joanna Stern for The Wall Street Journal:

I turned off autocorrect for a day and barely lived to tell the tale. Within minutes, it was clear how much the software is saving us from ourselves.

“But therein lies the rub,” Ken Kocienda, who created the iPhone’s autocorrect software, told me. “The more you ask it to do, the more potential there is for bugs and unexpected behaviors.”

Here’s what’s going on. When you type, the autocorrect algorithms are trying to figure out what you mean by looking at various things, including where your fingers landed on the keyboard and the other words in the sentences, while comparing your word fragment to the words in two unseen dictionaries:

• Static Dictionary: Built into iOS, this contains dictionary words and common proper nouns, such as product names or sports teams. There were over 70,000 words in this when the first iPhone launched and it’s gotten bigger since then.

Dynamic Dictionary: Built over time as you use your phone, this consists of words that are unique to you. The system looks at your contacts, emails, messages, Safari pages—even the names of installed apps.

It’s also where new words unique to your vocabulary get logged: By the third time you type an unknown word, the software will typically add it to the dynamic dictionary and stop trying to turn it into something different, said Mr. Kocienda and others.

MacDailyNews Take: Here’s hoping that iOS 16 has an “Autocorrect Undo Button” on its built-in keyboard (as third-party iOS keyboard Typewise offers)!

To fix recurring “Damn autocorrect!” issues on certain words, use Text Replacement. But, instead of using shortcuts to replace longer phrases, type the same word in both the Phrase and Shortcut fields.

  1. Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement
    • To add a text replacement, tap the Add button (+ icon), then enter your phrase and shortcut. Tap Save.
    • To remove a text replacement, tap Edit, tap the Remove button (- icon) then tap Delete. To save your changes, tap Done.

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  1. I’m a bit puzzled why my iPad sometimes chooses to capitalise a word in the middle of a sentence. They’re not proper nouns which need capital letters, just ordinary words.

  2. Is it too much to ask Auto-capitalization to store and recognize commonly abbreviated words when they occur mid-sentence and not capitalize the the next word every time?

    1. Yes, actually it is. Whatever you consider a common acronym may very well be a proper name or non-capitalized euphemism to someone else.

      The only way any spell checker will be reliable is if it supports custom dictionaries for every user, on device, and the user takes the time to define his terms. Premium Mac apps like Microsoft Word do this well. Apple iOS does not. Its machine learning, Siri, is as dumb as a box of rocks.

      Solution: stop relying on a spellchecker and proofread before sending. We should still be able to do this, people. Not that Apple makes that easy. Apple insists that we all use skinny sans serif font that makes it impossible at a glance to discern a lower case L from a capital I from the number 1 from a vertical bar.

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