OS X: Edit Your Custom Dictionary File

| TMO Quick Tip

Recent versions of Mac OS X will offer suggestions and automatically correct stuff if you’ve misspelled a word. 

If you tap the spacebar when you see a suggestion like the one above, your Mac will helpfully insert the correction, and you’ll be on your way. But what if it keeps trying to correct a word you know is right? I find this happens a lot with technical terms.

Thanks for playing, but no.

Well, there’s a custom dictionary file for every user account on your Mac, and were you so inclined, you could go in and add words, names, or anything else you were tired of being corrected on to its list. This’ll prevent Mac OS X from attempting to correct those items, and it’ll also take away that irritating red squiggle underneath ’em that means they're misspelled. Ah, bliss.

Editing that dictionary is actually simple—it’ll just involve getting to your hidden Library folder. To do that, click on the Finder icon in your Dock (it’s the blue smiley face on the left) and choose the “Go” menu at the top. If you hold down the Option key with that “Go” menu open, “Library” will appear.

Click that, and then look for a folder within it called “Spelling.” Open THAT, and you’ll see “LocalDictionary” inside.

Before you make changes here, I’d strongly suggest you make a copy of this file just in case something goes wrong. But then if you double-click “LocalDictionary,” it should open in your default text editor, and you’ll be able to see and edit its contents.

What a cromulent list.

Now’s where you go nuts—add multiple items to your dictionary (but be sure to keep them in alphabetical order!), edit things on it, or remove words if you don’t want them to be considered correctly spelled anymore. When you’ve made your changes, save the file and then log out and back in again. After you do that, your changes will be applied, and your life will be easier! Well, at least this one tiny bit of your life will be.

Oh, and there’s one more thing. If all you want to do is add a single word to this personal dictionary, that’s even faster. First, spell the word the way you’d like it to be, and then right-click on it and choose “Learn Spelling.”

That’ll automatically put the word in the dictionary file I mentioned above, and your Mac shouldn’t ever try to correct you again on it. 

And by the way, I do actually know how to spell “dachshund.” I promise I only had to look it up two or three times.

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Lee Dronick

Thank you Melissa!

Hopefully in a future version of OSX it will be a bit easier.


True. It would be nice if you could control-click on the little “x” to bring up a contextual menu that allowed you to add the original spelling to your custom dictionary.

How about it, Apple ??


This article should not have been needed. As a Mac user since the 1980s I have to say, Apple is two generations behind in its spell checking technology. This is one of many places where Apple is simply doing a bad job.  They are still using 1990’s character matching algorithms instead of crowd sourcing spelling correction.  Most Mac users I know end up right clicking on most of their miss-spelled words that the Mac can’t correct properly and google searching them.  Google nails it 19 times out of 20.

Other areas Apple is way behind in include compatible calendar software, proper implementation of IMAP that actually works, an iTunes application that people can make sense of (talk about legacy drag!),  and Map search that doesn’t take you to Outer Slabovia half the time, effective Siri on the 4th generation Apple TV (4th generation, not beta).


OK, maybe I’m dense (a distinct possibility), but I’m feeling like these instructions are missing some key steps. I’m running 10.11.4, and when I click on the finder icon in the dock, I do NOT get the menu shown in the article. Is there a configuration I need to change somewhere?


mactoid, Melissa is referring to the Finder Menu in the menu bar, not the Finder icon in the Dock…


On my Mac OS X automatically changes the spelling of Huawei (the Chinese telecommunications company) to HUAWEI - all in capitals. I’ve no idea why.

How can I edit the dictionary so that the name appears with just an initial cap?

Paul Goodwin

Great tip Melissa.


Question ?
When I go to the “GO” tab in Finder the window has all the choices BUT Library. I update my iMac to el Captain v 10.11.4 hoping it would show up
but no luck. Any suggestions on what I could do ?

Jason Cutler

Hey Melissa
Don’t forget there is a largely ignored but huge dictionary in every copy of OSX due to the old BSD origins.

Check the file

It’s 235886 lines long. It could be used to enhance the autocorrect dictionary file you mentioned by copying-and-pasting.

(There’s also a file of 1308 proper names in the same directory)


What I’d like to do is to have my Mac recognize *wrong* spellings so that it could suggest the correct spelling.  For instance if I type “fiance” I want it to offer “fiancé”.  Or “orderb” to “Hors d’oeuvre”.

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