Spell Checking Your Plain Text Files

Spelling is one of those interesting skills, isn’t it? Some people don’t value it very much. Others try, but can’t seem to master, good (or even decent) spelling. And no matter how accurately you can type, the occasional (or more frequent) typo creeps in especially if you type quickly.

That’s why checking your spelling is so important. Let’s look at how to do that with your plain text files

Using Your Editor

When I was starting my clumsy embrace of plain text back in the 1990s, it was difficult to find a text editor with a built-in spelling checker. How times have changed.

Nowadays, just about every editor comes with a spelling check out of the box or there are one or more plugins that will do the deed. With the click or two or with a couple of keystrokes, you can start finding spelling errors in what you’re working on.

I won’t go into all the text editors that come with spelling checkers — that would be a long list. That said, there are more than a couple of editors which lack that useful utility. If yours is one of them, you don’t need to switch to something else (unless you want to). Instead, you can turn to an external spell checker utility.

Desktop Spell Checker Utilities

Those kinds of utilities were all the rage throughout the 1990s and in the early 2000s. They filled a gap that software developers didn’t, couldn’t, or couldn’t bother filling. While the numbers of desktop spell checking tools have dwindled in recent years, they’re are still a few around.

For MacOS, check out:

Under Windows, you can give these applications a try:

If you’re a Linux user, you’ll need to crack open a terminal window and use:

Going Online

Why go online to find a spelling checker? Maybe none of the desktop tools you’ve tried have met your needs. Maybe you’re working at a company that locks down its desktops so you either can’t install a text editor with a spelling checker or a spell checker utility.

When in doubt, and especially when you need to, you can turn to one of the many spelling checkers on the web. Here are a few good options:

What to Look for in a Spelling Checker

You’ll want to make sure that you can get dictionary files for your language or variant of your language. I’m a Canadian who settled in New Zealand, so I try to use a New Zealand English dictionary. If there isn’t one for my editor, I switch to British English.

You spelling checker should also enable you to save words that aren’t in its default dictionary. That could be specialized terminology, acronyms, archaic words, or valid variations of the spelling of a word.

If you work with markup languages, your spelling checker should ignore the tags. That speeds up your check. Sure, you can add the tags to your dictionary but why bloat it when you don’t need to?