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The Automatic substitution feature in Google Docs is a simple way to create text shortcuts for words or sentences you regularly use in your documents. Here’s how you can save time and effort with this handy tool.

Fire up your web browser, head to Google Docs, and open a new or existing document.

On the menu bar, click Tools > Preferences.

From the Preferences settings, make sure the box next to “Automatic Substitution” is checked before you enter anything.

Ensure the box next to "Automatic substitutions" is checked.

This is the same feature that automatically creates hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes in your document.

RELATED: How to Create Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes in Google Docs

Next, you’ll see two text boxes, one for the word you want to replace and the second for what it will be replaced with. For example, anytime I type the word “Email” followed by the space character, Docs will replace it with my email address.

Type in a word you want to replace in the "Replace" field and type the word to be replaced in the "With" field.

You can also use the auto substitution feature as a kind of autocorrect for common words you might accidentally misspell, without having to right-click an error in Docs’ spellchecker.

RELATED: How to Check Your Spelling in Google Docs

Just as before, type any misspelling of a word in the “Replace” field along with the correct spelling in the “With” field.

You can use this feature as an autocorrect inside your document to automatically replace misspelled words.

One caveat to using automatic substitutions in Google Docs is anything in the “Replace” field has to be one word without spaces. If you enter something in this field with a space between words, Docs will add it to the list, but the shortcut won’t work. The “With” field can be virtually anything, however, including multiple words with space characters.

If often reuse a sentence or paragraph in your documents, you can use the substitution feature to create a text shortcut to shorten the number of keystrokes it takes to write it all out.

When using text shortcuts like this, to ensure any words you regularly use don’t overlap with keywords, place it alongside special characters, such as brackets, curly braces, colons, exclamation marks, etc. This way, you won’t get any unwarranted substitutions in your document.

To avoid substituting words you may commonly use, place the trigger word inside of special characters.

You can disable any substitution you’ve added by clicking the box next to the left of the “Replace” field or delete the substitute by clicking the small “X” to the right of the “With” field.

Temporarily disable shortcuts with the checkbox to the left and delete them from the list with the X on the right.

After you’re done entering all the substitutions, click the “OK” button to save changes and return to your document.

There you go. To add more shortcuts to your document, head back to Tools > Preferences and type in any substitutions you might need in the future.

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Brady Gavin has been immersed in technology for 15 years and has written over 150 detailed tutorials and explainers. He's covered everything from Windows 10 registry hacks to Chrome browser tips. Brady has a diploma in Computer Science from Camosun College in Victoria, BC.  
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