The Mac's Automatic Spelling Correction

You Can Turn Autocorrect On or Off by Application

The autocorrect function on a Mac is aggressive about wanting to make changes to spelling. It makes changes so quickly you may not notice that a word you typed has been changed. The Mac operating system provides a degree of control over the spell-checker. It gives you a choice to not only enable the spell-checker on a systemwide basis but also to turn it on or off for individual applications.

Depending on the application, you may have additional levels of control beyond merely turning the spell-checker on or off. As an example, Apple Mail can have the spell-checker only highlight errors while you type, or you can wait until you've completed typing the message to run spell-checking.

Information in this article applies to Macs with macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Lion (10.7).

Always Check For Spelling Mistakes Typewriter Concept
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Enable or Disable Automatic Spelling Correction Systemwide

  1. Launch System Preferences, either by clicking the System Preferences icon in the Dock or by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

    Apple menu showing System Preferences option
  2. Click Keyboard if you use any of the newer versions of the mac operating system—macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Mavericks (10.9). Click Language & Text in OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) or OS X Lion (10.7).

    System Preferences master menu
  3. Select the Text tab in the Keyboard screen.

    Selecting Text.
  4. To enable the automatic spelling check, place a check mark next to Correct Spelling Automatically.

    You can also use the Spelling drop-down menu in this screen to select a preferred language to use or select the Automatic by Language, which is the default, to instruct the operating system to use the best spelling match for the language in use.

    Text tab is Keyboard preferences
  5. To disable the automatic spelling check, remove the check mark next to Correct Spelling Automatically.

Enable or Disable Automatic Spelling Correction by Application

Apple also embedded the ability to control spell-checking functions on an application-by-application basis. This per-application system works with software that has been updated to work with Lion or later.

Depending on the application, the ability and options available to control spell-checking vary. In this example, This example shows the autocorrect feature in Apple Mail.

  1. Launch Apple Mail by clicking its icon in the Dock.

    Mac Dock showing Mail icon
  2. Open a new message and click in the body. The text insertion point needs to be in an editable area of the message.

    New Mail message
  3. Click Mail's Edit menu and let your cursor hover over Spelling and Grammar to reveal a submenu with various options.

    Selecting Spelling and Grammar.
  4. To turn off autocorrection, remove the check mark next to Correct Spelling Automatically.

    Spelling and Grammar options in Apple Mail
  5. To instruct the spell-checker to warn you of errors, place a check mark by clicking Check Spelling > While Typing.

    Apple Mail spelling and grammar preferences

The menu entries in other applications may look slightly different from those in Mail, but if the application supports the systemwide Spelling and Grammar system, you can usually find options to control the various functions in the application's Edit menu, under the Spelling and Grammar item.

Changes to application-level Spelling and Grammar preferences may not take effect until you restart the application.

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