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Before Sending Phone Texts Edit Mortifying Typos and Autocorrects

Updated on January 18, 2016
B. Leekley profile image

Brian's avocation is creative writing. His fiction has appeared in small literary magazines. He's been a copy editor. He is writing a novel.

Her Smart Phone


I Give My Wife a Smart Phone

I bought my wife a smart phone for Christmas to replace her behind-the-times cell phone (which was much more modern than mine). Yesterday she learned again a lesson she has already learned using her work smart phone—proofread text messages before sending them. She has told humorous stories of a coworker or herself typing or dictating a certain word or phrase and having a different word or phrase—which may be incongruous and ridiculous in context, even vulgar—show in the message instead, when the automatically complete words as you type feature or the type for you as you dictate feature has made a wrong guess. I know how silly and weird such errors by "smart" computer software can be from my use on my laptop computer at home of the Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition program.

Sometimes a smart phone text message error caused by the voice to text feature or the autocorrect feature guessing wrong can have serious consequences. Reputedly, such errors when not noticed and corrected before a text message was sent have caused companies embarrassment and loss of business and have gotten even salaried management-level employees fired.

Have you ever sent a phone text message that said something you did not intend and was:

See results

A Strange Message

An error in a phone text message my wife sent me yesterday did not have any untoward consequences, but it was strange. The message that she dictated to her smart phone was: "Dad fell and we are going to take him to ER to have x-rays". The message that her smart phone "heard" and typed for her and that I received—while at home washing dishes, aware that my wife had planned to work till early afternoon, run an errand, and then visit her parents (whose house is about a mile from our apartment) for a bit before coming home—was, "Dad died and we are going to take him to ER to have X 28".

Not a Big Surprise

My father-in-law is 91 years old. He had a mild stroke a few years ago. He has been showing increasing symptoms of dementia. For instance, I have observed him at a meal hold up a napkin and ask to be reminded what it is. His adult grandchildren, and I, look familiar to him, but he does not retain the memory of how we are related to him. He might get up, dressed, shaved, and ready to go at 3:00 AM for an 8:30 AM coffee or hot chocolate date with his buddies. His thinking, speech, and motions are much slower than they were just a few years ago. His heartbeat tends to be irregular. Sudden death can happen to anyone, but for someone his age with his health, sudden death would be unexpected but not a big surprise. And I reacted to my wife's message as unexpected but not surprising news.

What was surprising and perplexing was that my mother-in-law and my wife were taking my "dead" father-in-law to the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital. That seemed unusual procedure, but what do I know? Nor did I know what an X 28 is. Some red-tape form?

I texted back, "I will take the bus" [to the hospital to be with them in this time of shock, grief, and necessary procedures], and my wife texted me back, "Thanks."


As I put on my coat, hat, and gloves, locked our apartment door, and walked the three blocks to a bus stop, I thought of the questions that (I thought) had become moot—Is it time yet for my mother-in-law to take his car keys away from my father-in-law? How would he react to adult day care? How long before his macular degeneration would become a problem? Should they move to a place easier to care for than a house? And so on. Other questions had, it seemed, suddenly become immediate instead of in the hypothetical someday future, like, what would life be like for my mother-in-law as a widow? Would she want to use her increased leisure time to do even more bridge playing? Would she want to move to an apartment or condominium?

Don't Believe Everything You Read

I was waiting for a city bus and pondering such thoughts when an approaching car blinked its lights at me and pulled into the nearby Chinese restaurant parking lot. My wife was driving my mother-in-law's car; my father-in-law was in the front passenger seat (I approached from the back of the car and did not see his face), and my mother-in-law was in the driver-side back seat. I got in the car beside her. She and my wife greeted me cheerfully. I wondered if my father-in-law were alive or dead. From behind he looked so natural and normal sitting there. How had the two women, one 60 and the other 89, carried and maneuvered the dead weight of the body to and into the car? Then my mother-in-law asked my father-in-law a question about pain, and he answered her, and I knew he was not dead after all.

If still not convinced to edit texts before sending


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My biggest problem with texting, Brian, is sending the text to the wrong person. I'll get in a hurry and hit the wrong address, and then a whole lot of explaining has to follow. LOL

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      That is definitely not the kind of message we would hope to get ever by phone. How disconcerting that must have been for you. Auto correct is truly in the early stages, or let's hope so. My friend uses Dragon Speak and has for a dozen years. The early versions of the software were often full of strange conversions of what he probably meant that came out kind of warped.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 2 years ago from Georgia

      This was so very funny once you found out the outcome was not what you thought. I'm so glad.

      Yes, those smartphone can get you in a lot of trouble and result in lots of confusion if you don't take the time to edit. They sometimes think for you, giving the wrong names which can lead to consequences that might be similar to yours. Try to type Steven and get Stephanie, you could have a whole different meaning to a conversation. This just happened to me a few days ago. Someone else was the sender but they didn't reread the message before they hit send.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and the warning. Voted up and funny.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting! I have not got myself into any of these situations as described in the poll. I have heard of others who have and of how it affected their lives.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Brian, that auto-correct feature is a pain in the butt. I've learned to proof my texts before hitting the send button.

      The message that came through from your wife would have me freaking out. Especially, once I saw dad in the front seat! How bizarre....

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Funny story, yet serious in a way. Ellen's video was hilarious...

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      That could be an interesting plot twist.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I wonder if auto correct and voice recognition software will always make such mistakes sometimes. Given that they work by guessing what most likely was said, I expect they always will sometimes guess wrong. Best to proofread what they type.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Glad you saw the humor in the situation and in my telling about it. Another day the news won't be an error. Life brings laughter and tears.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      If you send phone text messages, I expect you are careful to proofread before sending.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Good for you, bravewarrior, that you proof your texts.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Glad you see both the humor and the seriousness. A agree re the video.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      It's frustrating and annoying that none of my replies matches up with the comment to which it is a reply. Persona Paper does this right. I wish HubPages did.

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I've been embarrassed more than once, Brian. Like Bill, I have sent a message to the wrong person and was completely embarrassed. One message I typed into my phone for Facebook said, "Yes, I am looking forward to that in bed" when I meant to say, "I'm looking forward to that and the coming days ahead." The subject was about fitness, so imaginations were flying and my friends were hackling. I guess it was a good laugh which we all need every once in a while. :-)

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Abby Campbell, yes, not just editing a message before sending is important--one should also double check where the message is being sent. I've encountered the situation of a very personal private message being unintentionally sent to a whole group and also the situation of the person for whom a surprise birthday was being planned being mistakenly included in a text to the planning group.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is interesting, yet serious!

      I am very careful when sending messages, because I have received some wrong messages, though unintentionally, conveying something which it was not meant to be.

      Thanks for the reminder in this well written hub and in an interesting manner! Voted up!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Thank you, ChitrangadaSharan. I'm glad you liked this article and found it a helpful reminder.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I can related on this. I do a lot of typing onmuipa. You see - it just happened. I meant "on my iPad." When I talk and let Seri type, I know what I said and don't always look back at what was typed. If I don't look carefully Seri types crazy things sometimes.

      The auto correct is just as bad. I don't know why auto correct decides that perfectly correct words and spelling are wrong. And if I don't notice it, I end up having something completely different from what I meant to say.

      I'm glad you wrote about this. Unless people type on an iPad or smart phone, they may not be aware that this is a huge problem.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 2 years ago from California

      I just can't seem to text without mistakes and whenever I use voice recognition software the results are even worse--so I edit some and just hope that people have a sense of humor for the others!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Proofreading your work is a prudent practice no matter how it got written, because typos happen to both humans and software (voice to text, auto correct, etc.).

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      LOL! When i read the last sentenced , I laughed my head off when your "dead" father in law replied

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Thanks, peachpurple. I'm glad you appreciate the humor of the situation. It was a weird experience.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Such good advice. Sometimes I see the word that the "auto" feature is about to type and it baffles me as to why it would think (based on the flow of previous words) I would want to text such a word. I have learned not to be in a hurry or I could get myself into a lot of trouble letting texts fly off the wire unedited.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Thanks for your comment, MarleneB. I'm glad you are careful to stop and edit before sending.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 24 months ago from SW England

      I ALWAYS proof-read my texts. I know how embarrassing they can be. Like Bill, I've sent them to the wrong person, thankfully without any repercussions.

      As you show here, the consequences can be dire at least but possibly catastrophic.

      Good lesson to learn. Amusing hub.


    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 23 months ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi B Leekley Did you really think he was in the car? What a shocking message to receive on your phone. I know about those crazy errors on the phone even when you type it yourself, and something else crops up that is nonsensical. I would rather those choices would not be there for the phone to pick up. Great story. Blessings, Audrey

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 23 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Thanks, annart. I keep hearing more anecdotes about phone text typos and auto-correct errors.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 23 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Thanks, Audrey. At the time, I didn't know what to think.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 22 months ago from San Diego California

      I thought voting Funny was inappropriate, so I voted up beautiful. When I was making a voice note the other day about Gov. Jerry Brown's cronies, "fawning sycophants" became "bonding single fonts." That's why I don't speak my texts. It's still not a perfect science. Great hub.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 22 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Thanks for commenting, Mel. It would have been okay to vote Funny. I tried to express the simultaneous humor, strangeness, and seriousness of the situation. Thanks for adding another good example of why dictated text should be edited before sent.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 20 months ago from North Texas

      My phone thinks it's smarter than I am too, and is always changing what I type. I guess the reason they're called 'Smart Phones,' is because they speak languages most people have never even heard of. Trouble with that is they're always showing off at the worst times by throwing some of their other world language into our messages.

      Like you said, you should always proof the message before sending. I've found that even when I do that, sometimes it will change a word or phrase while in transit and it will come out as gibberish if I'm lucky. If not lucky, it could be something embarrassing or even obscene, like you said.

      I really get exasperated with my phone at times. I hope no one ever ends up divorced or fired because of these phones. Mine sure makes up some crazy things sometimes.

      Very good advice here!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 20 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      That's awful, Au fait, that a phone will change your wording even after you have proofed a message. That is a good reason to change phone companies and publicly say why. I hate it when arrogant, presumptuous programmers and their employers program a computer or other 'smart' device to contradict my decisions.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 19 months ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Sorry, but I find your story kind of funny as I was trying to imagine the ladies in the car and your father-in-law at the front seat. Oh, boy!

      What a disaster this auto correct can do, eh? That's why, I never put it on. Yes, you have the option to switch it off. And, if I may husband once texted me from work wanting to say, "I'm sick" but the letter "s" is placed right next to "d" (on iphone) and so the word "sick" became...well, you know. So, I guess, proof reading is necessary before we hit that send button.

      I don't like texting anyway!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 19 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Thanks for commenting, Crisp, and thanks for the humorous anecdote that again makes the point to proofread phone text messages before sending. Both humans and auto-correct systems make mistakes.

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