Make Your Own iPhone and Mac Text Replacements for Auto-Correct

Updated July 13th, 2019.

Whether you’re using an iPhone or a Mac, Auto-Correct is a real time-saver. Turns out you can set up your own “corrections” that expand into frequently-used words, phrases, sentences– even whole paragraphs!

(On the Mac, they call them “text expansions.” On the iPhone, they’re “text replacements.” Either way, think of them as Auto-Corrects that substitute a lot of text for a little. Imagine typing a couple of characters in Messages on your iPhone and seeing it expand into a whole bunch of stuff that you didn’t have to type! That’s the power of these things.)

Here are some expansions that I use every day:

  • “cbem” becomes
  • “cba” becomes Christian Boyce and Associates
  • “ty” becomes Thank you
  • “mbp” becomes MacBook Pro

Text expansions are easy to create, and here’s the cool thing: if you have both a Mac and an iOS device (iPhone or iPad, or even iPod), the expansions you make on one will sync through iCloud to the other! Take a minute now to set up some expansions of your own. You’ll get the time back in spades.

How to add a text expansion on a Mac.

Go to the Apple menu, then System Preferences, then Keyboard. Then click the Text button at the top. You’ll see the existing text expansions.

Click the “+” at the lower left corner of the window to create a new text expansion. Below: I’m making one where typing “hbb”will expand into “Hey Bay-Bee”

Making a Text Expansion on the Mac
Making a Text Expansion on the Mac

Type the shortcut in the box on the left, and type what you want it to expand to into the box on the right. You can paste text into either box also. Click some other text expansion to exit the box, then close System Preferences. From now on, whenever you type the shortcut it will expand into whatever you told it to expand into.

(Actually, that’s not quite true. Typing the shortcut doesn’t trigger an expansion at all. But, if you type the shortcut and then a space, or type the shortcut and some punctuation, the expansion will occur. This allows you to have a shortcut like “mc” for “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” while still being able to type “McFarland” or some other “mc” word. Also, the text won’t expand unless it’s the beginning of a word, so if you have a shortcut like “cb” for “Christian Boyce” it won’t trigger when you type “MacBook.” The text expansions you make work just like the ones Apple provides– nothing new here.

Text expansions might not work in some applications, and especially not in password boxes on web pages. They’ll work in the Apple apps– Mail, Messages, Pages, Safari, Contacts, Calendar, and more– and remember, they’ll sync over to your iPhone where they will work just about everywhere.)

How to add a text replacement on an iPhone.

Want to create text replacements from your iPhone? Go to Settings, then General, then Keyboard, then Text Replacement. Tap the “+” at the upper right. It’s a little bit confusing but you put the expanded version in the (upper) “Phrase” box. The shortcut goes in the “Shortcut” box. That’s not confusing at all. Tap the “Save” button when you’re done.

Here I’m making a text replacement that types “Soopah!” when I type “sp.”

Creating a Text Replacement on the iPhone
Creating a Text Replacement on the iPhone

Pretty easy stuff.

I’ve created text replacements for things with special capitalizations, like iPhone, iMac, iPad, and so on. This lets me type them all lowercase, knowing they’ll be replaced with the properly capitalized versions.

I’ve also made some text replacements that expand into emojis. For example, “wud” becomes “❓⬆️🐶” (for “What up, Dog?” so I can sound “cool” like the young people).

Finally, I’ve made text replacements for words that I sometimes misspell or simply mis-type. I put the “mistake” in the shortcut box and the correct version in the Phrase box. Then, if I happen to type the mistake, my Mac or iPhone corrects it behind my back. Nice.

Copyright 2008-2023 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.

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