Tip: Custom(-ish) dictionary for a project

One thing I’ve wished for is the ability to have a per-project dictionary (for made-up sci-fi/fantasy words, names, locations, etc) that I don’t necessarily want in my Mac’s main dictionary. This is especially true if I’m using misspelled variants of “real” words that I don’t want getting overlooked in work emails or documents.

Since Scrivener for Mac only uses that simple dictionary for spell-checking, I’ve been “stuck” adding things to the dictionary, and then hoping it doesn’t impact my real work (you know, that pesky day job that still pays the bills). But I’ve come up with a solution that works well enough for me that I wanted to share.

I open a new TextEdit document (one for each project), and add each of my made-up words/names to it, one per line. When I get the red squiggles in Scrivener, and I’m confident that’s how I want to spell it, I add it to that TextEdit doc. Inside that new TextEdit document, I right-click on each word with a and select “Learn Spelling” (don’t use “Ignore Spelling”). This adds it to my main MacOS dictionary (which, yeah, that’s the thing I didn’t want to happen).

Here’s the trick: Since I have all my custom words in one place, I can then easily right-click on them and select “Unlearn Spelling” to remove them from my Mac’s shared dictionary. I don’t have to remove all words, either – I can remove only the learned spellings if I think they’ll interfere with regular spell-check, and quickly add them back when I get back to my writing project in Scrivener.

And while, yes, that is a bit of manual effort, it does help me identify when I’ve actually misspelled one of my project-specific made-up words/names. If I finally break down and create a Mac Automation Script to handle these for me, I’ll share it here as well.

You could create multiple copies of the Local Dictionary (for different projects), and move the one you want into Scrivener’s support folder before opening a project. The text file you’re talking about could be one of those Local Dictionary instances.

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Now that is a capital idea. I have 7 extensive writing projects, one of which has thousands of unique terms that won’t be used anyplace else. Having migrated across no less than a dozen computers and fifteen operating systems since 2003 (I work in IT) all the extraneous junk on my latest Mac was creating spinning pizza of death issues. Last week I cloned my system, nuked and paved the SSD and have been slowly clean installing only the things I absolutely positively need to have. I’ve spent the past two days banging my head on this exact dictionary issue and trying a wide variety of suggestions. The only solution I seemed to be left with was diving into Python and creating a set of dictionaries for MacOS and that is not a project I have time for.

Your solution is so simple, sweet and elegant and it will hold me until L&L adds hooks for external custom dictionaries like the one I built in LibraOffice that I can’t get the OS to recognize. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You Rock!

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