Over the years, Microsoft has worked to adapt its spell-check feature to shifting standards in language.
One way the company does this is through “inclusiveness” checkers. This is an optional feature available since at least 2019 in which Office products like Microsoft Word will suggest words that are more “inclusive” than available alternatives.
This can include minor switches like suggesting the word “firefighter” in place of “fireman,” or more drastic changes, such as advising the word “people” as an alternative for the phrase “men and women.”
Although this feature is optional, it is not without controversy. Some have criticized the tool for its lack of nuance, noting that it has trouble in academic texts and stories where gender plays a significant role. Others have taken a more political view of the program, claiming that Microsoft and the tool are, as one user quoted by The Standard puts it, “cowering to the woke brigade.”
Now, a user on TikTok has gone viral after revealing their own experience with the tool.
In a video with over 1.9 million views, TikTok user Lee (@disgracefulee) shows a paper in progress being written on Microsoft Word. Lee has written the word “gunman,” which has been highlighted by the program.
When Lee clicks on the word for suggested alternatives, Microsoft Word suggests “shooter,” as the program states that “gunman” is not inclusive language.
“Microsoft word keeping me a feminist,” Lee joked in the caption.
In a TikTok DM exchange with the Daily Dot, Lee noted that they are “generally the target audience for gender inclusive changes like these” as they are nonbinary. However, they say that their impression of this sort of software is mixed.
“I think that it’s good that companies are trying to take DEI seriously, but I think sometimes it can come across as performative,” they wrote. “It’s like, why are you worrying about me typing a word with the suffix ‘man’ when your company continues to be run by majority cishet white guys? Don’t you have bigger fish to fry?”
@disgracefulee Microsoft word keeping me a feminist 💪💪 #university #college #school #microsoftword #class #english #englishmajor #highschool ♬ original sound – Pop Choir Australia
“But I understand that tools like these can be helpful to people who are trying to be inclusive, and it’s not like it’s actually impacting my life in any way,” they added.
In the comments section, users shared their own experiences using autocorrect.
“I’m so petty, I get corrections like this and will not change it just outta spite,” said a user.
“The amount of inclusiveness mistakes ive made,” added another.
“…I’m tryna write creatively and the autocorrect wants me to sound like a very formal robot,” claimed a third.
This isn’t the first time a story involving Microsoft autocorrect has gone viral. Last month, a user shared a document in which they had written the phrase “economically disadvantaged.” The program suggested the word “poor” in its place for “clarity.”
Back on Lee’s TikTok, users begged the TikToker to post the full paper, which they eventually did. In the end, it appears that Lee did accept Word’s suggestion of changing the word “gunman” to “shooter.”
“I’m sure I’ve experienced it before and never noticed,” they said of this style of autocorrect. “At the time I just thought it was a little funny, but I didn’t really think about it more until the video blew up.”
The Daily Dot reached out to Microsoft via email.