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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Wish List: Edit iOS’s autocorrect dictionary

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Recently a friend of mine complained that he was having trouble with iOS not recognizing his daughter’s name. It’s not a particularly unusual name, but it’s just not in Apple’s built-in dictionary, and so the system kept changing it to another name close in spelling that, while not necessarily more common, was in its database.

After trying a bunch of workarounds, I found one that worked for me (though, for some reason, not for him): adding a contact with her name in it. But the point is: why? Why should we have to jump through this hoop?

macOS has long offered a way to add words to its built-in spellcheck dictionary.

On macOS, we’ve long been able to add words to the system’s built-in dictionary, so they don’t come up every time we run check spelling. That’s a particular boon for sci-fi writers like me, because often we just make up words and then use them a lot. So on my Mac, I can just go to Edit > Spelling > Show Spelling and Grammar and then, when it flags the word in question, click Learn. And that word will never bother me again.

But this ability simply doesn’t exist on iOS. We’re told that if you override autocorrect a couple of times, the system should remember your correction, but in my experience, that “feature” is hit or miss. It’s also incredibly opaque and annoying as a user experience: the only way to have something done right is to fight with the system? Multiple times? Bizarre.

The fix seems straightforward enough: allow users to add words to iOS’s dictionary so they can stop fighting with autocorrect. Whether this takes the form of a contextual popover menu, a section somewhere in Settings, or somewhere else entirely doesn’t particularly matter—the important part is giving the control to users, rather than some obtuse machine-learning algorithm that already seemingly likes to replace real words with non-words.

Which, while we’re at it, suggests that Apple ought to give us an option to have autocorrect unlearn words as well. If the system is going to act as though it knows better than the users, it should actually know better.1 Or it should let us flag words and terms that we don’t use and remove them from the iOS dictionary at well. Let us make our mistakes, instead of having them made for us.

  1. It oes not. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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