Microsoft adopts E8’s MS Office plug-in

A made-in-Canada dictionary plug-in that was introduced last year as part of an awareness campaign tackling anti-Asian racism is being formally adopted by global software giant Microsoft.

Developed by the advocacy group Elimin8Hate (E8) in partnership with Citizen Relations, the ReClaimYourName.dic eliminates the red line that appears under non-Anglo names in word-processing applications such as Microsoft Word, wrongly suggesting that the name is spelled incorrectly.

According to E8, the advocacy arm of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, the red line sends a clear message to Asians: “You don’t belong.” The project will help “increase representation and strengthen a culture of inclusion,” said E8 in a release.

Microsoft has agreed to add the ReclaimYouName.dic plug-in—which features some 8,000 names found across one-dozen Asian countries—to current and future Microsoft Office applications, which include its leading word processing application, Word. Microsoft Office has more than 1 billion users around the world.

The ReClaimYourName plug-in also recently received an honourable mention in the Workplace category in Fast Company‘s 2023 World Changing Ideas Awards.

Barbara Lee, founder of both the Vancouver Asian Film Festival and Elimin8Hate, said that Microsoft’s decision signals a “watershed moment of inclusivity” for the Asian community.

“Not only is this significant progress forward for normalizing Asian identities, it will help pave the way for a more inclusive future for all,” she said. “A huge thank you to Microsoft for recognizing the need for change and being part of the solution.”

ReClaimYourName.dic has received thousands of views and hundreds of downloads from individuals and small and medium-sized business. It has also garnered support from several notable Asian Canadians, including Pulitzer Prize-nominated cartoonist and illustrator, Zoe Si, actor Hiro Kanagawa, and food blogger and TV personality Mijune Pak.

“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more,” said Microsoft Canada president Chris Barry in a release. “We are intentional about using our global reach to drive positive change in the communities where we live and work. Billions of people use Microsoft apps every day for work, school and life, and initiatives like Elimin8Hate’s ReClaimYourName dictionary will help make that experience more inclusive for everyone.”

It’s not the first made-in-Canada solution that has garnered international acclaim and been put to practical use in real-world situations in recent months.

Juniper Park\TBWA’s “Signal for Help,” a hand signal developed for the Canadian Women’s Foundation that enables women in distress to subtly indicate that they need help, went viral on social media, and is credited with saving a U.S. teenager from a kidnapper.

Chris Powell