Check Spelling as You Type in Mac OS X Mail

Avoid embarrassing typos in your emails

Proofread note with check boxes for spelling, grammar and accuracy.

ogichobanov / Getty Images

Spelling mistakes and typos in emails are embarrassing. Yet taking the extra time to go over an email before you send it or to run a spell check can be inconvenient and time-consuming. With Mac OS X Mail and macOS Mail, you don't have to take that extra step if you set the app to check for and flag misspellings automatically as you type. The program underlines with a dotted line any spelling mistake that its spell-checker detects to draw your attention to it.

Information in this article applies to all versions of OS X Mail and macOS Mail through macOS Catalina, except as noted.

How to Turn On Spell Check in OS X or macOS Mail

To set your default spell-checking preference so that the spelling in every email is checked as you compose it:

  1. Open the Mail app on your Mac.

  2. Click Mail in the menu bar and select Preferences from the drop-down menu.

    The Mail Menu bar showing drop-down menu
  3. Click the Composing tab in the Mail preferences window.

    General Mail Preferences screen
  4. Next to Check Spelling, select as I type from the drop-down menu.

    The Composing tab in Mac Mail preferences

As you type your email, any misspelled words are highlighted so that you can correct them.

Alternate Method to Turn On Spell Check

To turn on spell-checking from within the composition window and avoid the preferences screen altogether:

  1. Open the Mail app and a new email composition window. Select Edit from the menu bar.

  2. Click on Spelling and Grammar in the drop-down menu.

  3. Hover on Check Spelling.

  4. Select While Typing.

    Path to spell check an email in Mac Mail

Spell Check in Older Versions of Mail

To check the spelling as you type in Mac OS X Mail 1, 2, and 3:

  1. Open the Mail app.

  2. Select Edit > Spelling > Check Spelling As You Type from the Mac OS X Mail menu.

  3. If Check Spelling As You Type is not checked, click on it to add a check mark.

A Caveat With Spell-Checking 

As in any program, spell checking is a matter of checking words against those in the program's list of accepted words. If the word is in that list, it won't be marked as incorrect or be corrected. In other words, the spell-checker can't tell, for example, whether "to," "two," or "too" is correct in your sentence, so quickly checking over your email before you send it is always a good idea.