How to Change the Spell Check Language in MacOS Mail

Specify your primary language for use on your Mac

School Exam with Correction Marks

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Do you find macOS Mail balking at perfectly good Australian English and suggesting American spelling everywhere? Do you use Norwegian often in your emails, leaving the spelling and grammar checker baffled? Would you prefer your Mac not try to guess the language you are typing?

MacOS Mail employs your Mac's systemwide spelling checker. In addition to specifying one or more languages for it to check, you can pick variations for certain tongues—Brazilian versus European Portuguese, for example. Although the basics are the same, designating the macOS spell check language differs somewhat from the method used by its predecessor OS X.

Instructions in this article apply to macOS 10.12 and later.

Change the MacOS Mail Spell Checker Language

To pick the languages and dictionaries used to check the spelling in the emails you write using your Mac:

  1. Open System Preferences on your Mac under the Apple menu.

    System Preferences under a Mac's Apple Menu
  2. Select the Language & Region category.

    macOS System Preferences with the Languages & Region section highlighted
  3. Click the plus sign under the Preferred Languages section.

    Languages & Region settings on Mac with the plus sign under Preferred Languages highlighted
  4. Highlight a language and click Add.

    Pay attention to language variants; Australian English is not the same as U.S. English, for example.

    Languages screen in macOS System Preferences with the Add button highlighted
  5. A pop-up asks you to clarify which of the languages in the Preferred Languages section is the one you want to use as your primary language.

    If you change the primary language, you'll need to restart your computer before it is recognized.

    Confirmation of primary language in System Preferences in macOS
  6. System Preferences may ask if you want to add any keyboards based on the language you just added.

  7. Select any additional languages you want to add to the Preferred Languages section. 

  8. To remove a language, highlight it and click the minus sign.

    Languages & Region in macOS System Preferences with the minus sign highlighted
  9. Drag and drop the languages in the Preferred languages screen to change their order. The first one in the list is designated as your primary language. However, Mac OS X can often pick the correct language for your mail from the text you type.

  10. Click the Keyboard Preferences button at the bottom of the Language & Region preferences screen.

    Keyboard Preferences button in Language & Region section of macOS System Preferences
  11. Select the Text tab.

    Keyboard preferences in macOS system settings with the Text tab highlighted
  12. Place a checkmark in front of Correct spelling automatically.

    Keyboard preferences in macOS system preferences with the box next to
  13. Select Automatic by Language from the Spelling drop-down menu to allow the Mac to choose the language to use.

    To specify the language the Mac should use, select it from the drop-down menu.

    Keyboard preferences in macOS System Preferences with the Spelling pulldown menu highlighted
  14. Close the Language & Region system preferences window to save the changes.