Software

How to tweak macOS autocorrect and dictionary features to speed and improve your communication

Email and social media encourage quicker, more informal interactions. See how tweaking two macOS features can help you send professional, typo-free business communications.

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Image: iStock/jacoblund

You can avoid introducing problems with business communications by ensuring all your written correspondence—including emails, reports, briefings, status updates, memos, and letters—do not contain typos, improper capitalization, and other spelling and grammatical errors. By tweaking macOS autocorrect and dictionary settings, you can help speed and improve the quality of your communications. That's a good combination.

SEE: Electronic communication policy (Tech Pro Research)

In macOS, start by ensuring you're leveraging the autocorrect feature. Open System Preferences, select Keyboard, click the Text tab, and ensure the Correct Spelling Automatically checkbox is selected (Figure A).

I recommend having macOS automatically capitalize the first word in sentences and proper nouns. You enable that feature from the same Keyboard system preferences' Text tab by checking the Capitalize Words Automatically checkbox (Figure A).

Also, confirm spellcheck is set to the correct language; this is particularly important if you work for an international firm that prepares communications or materials for a variety of countries, especially as English variants are available for users in the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, India, and other countries, or if you often travel internationally. From the same Text tab, ensure the country spelling you intend (such as US English) is selected from the Spelling drop-down box or that the Automatic By Language option is specified (Figure A).

Figure A

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You should take advantage of the ability in macOS to replace specified text strings with replacement text by entering such text strings within the Text tab. Use the + icon to add Replace and With value strings. For example, if you frequently spell a company name, such as Level 3 Communications, you can enter the formal name as the "With" value and set a shortcut combination, such as L3, as the "Replace" value. If you wish to eliminate a text string value, highlight the corresponding entry and click the - icon.

SEE: 44 simple ways to sharpen your writing skills (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

When you're working within a macOS app (including browser windows and cloud-based professional business line apps), performing spelling and grammar checks only requires a few clicks.

To check spelling, click Edit from the top menu and select Spelling And Grammar, then select Check Document Now. macOS will display the first error; press Command and the ; key to proceed to the next error. If you wish to display the suggested spellings, control-click the word.

To check grammar, click Edit from the top menu and select Spelling And Grammar, then select Check Grammar With Spelling. macOS will underline grammar errors in green, and moving the cursor over an underlined word will prompt macOS to display a corresponding problem description.

To add a word to the macOS dictionary and help speed future checks, control-click the word. Click Learn Spelling from the resulting pop-up menu. Subsequently, future spellchecks won't flag the word as misspelled. I've noticed it's particularly helpful to complete this step for your company's products, brand names, division titles, and other nuances to help ensure you don't lose time reviewing false positive errors and also help true misspellings stand out.

One major application Mac professionals use regularly—Microsoft Word—packs its own dictionary. So if you spend quite a bit of time composing professional communications using Microsoft Word, or Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, you'll want to work much in the same manner to develop Microsoft's dictionary. For example, control-click words Microsoft believes are misspelled but that you wish to add to the Microsoft dictionary.

Microsoft Word possesses its own autocorrect library, separate from the macOS autocorrect library. You can access and edit Word's autocorrect settings and features by opening Word, clicking Tools, and selecting AutoCorrect (Figure B).

Figure B

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Within Microsoft's suite of programs, spelling (and when available, grammar) checking menus are found in different locations. When using Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint, you'll find the spelling (and grammar when applicable) settings accessible from the Tools menu. When working with email messages in Outlook, the spelling and grammar settings are in the Edit menu.

The Microsoft apps underline misspelled words in red, while double-underlining grammatical problems in blue, by default. Control-clicking those selections presents the corresponding corrections the program recommends.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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