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Spell-check and language dictionaries

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Check spelling

You can spell-check a selected range of text, in all of the text in a story, in all stories in a document, or in all stories in all open documents. Misspelled or unknown words, words typed twice in a row (such as “the the”), and words with possible capitalization errors are highlighted. In addition to checking the spelling in a document, you can also enable dynamic spelling so that potentially misspelled words are underlined while you type.

When you check spelling, the dictionary for the languages you assigned to the text is used. You can quickly add words to the dictionary.

Set spelling preferences

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Spelling (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Spelling (Mac OS).
  2. Do any of the following:
    • Select Misspelled Words to find words that do not appear in the language dictionary.

    • Select Repeated Words to find duplicate words such as “the the.”

    • Select Uncapitalized Words to find words (such as “germany”) that appear in the dictionary only as capitalized words (“Germany”).

    • Select Uncapitalized Sentences to find uncapitalized words following periods, exclamation points, and question marks.

  3. Select Enable Dynamic Spelling to underline potentially misspelled words while you type.
  4. Specify the underline color of misspelled words (words not found in the user dictionaries), repeated words (such as “the the”), uncapitalized words (such as “nigeria” instead of “Nigeria”), and uncapitalized sentences (sentences that don’t begin with a capital letter).

Check spelling

  1. If your document includes foreign-language text, select the text and use the Language menu on the Character panel to specify the language for that text.
  2. Choose Edit > Spelling > Check Spelling.

    Spell-checking begins.

    Spelling check

  3. If you want to change the range of your spell-checking, do any of the following, and then click Start to begin checking the spelling:

    In the Search drop-down, choose one of the following options:

    • Select Document to check the entire document. Select All Documents to check all open documents.

    • Select Story to check all text in the currently selected frame, including text in other threaded text frames and overset text. Select Stories to check stories in all selected frames.

    • Select To End Of Story to check from the insertion point.

    • Select Selection to check only selected text. This option is available only if text is selected.

  4. When unfamiliar or misspelled words or other possible errors are displayed, choose an option:
    • Click Skip to continue spell-checking without changing the highlighted word. Click Ignore All to ignore all occurrences of the highlighted word, until InDesign is restarted.

    • Select a word from the Suggested Corrections list or type the correct word in the Change To box, and then click Change to change only that occurrence of the misspelled word. You can also click Change All to change all occurrences of the misspelled word in your document.

    • To add a word to a dictionary, select the dictionary from the Add To menu, and click Add.

    • Click Dictionary to display the Dictionary dialog box, where you can specify the target dictionary and language, and specify hyphenation breaks in the added word. If you want to add the word to all languages, choose All Languages from the Language menu. Click Add.

  5. You can also set the direction of the spell-check as Forward or Backward. By default, Forward is selected. If you misssed certain errors while checking and want to go back and correct the previous errors.

Correct spelling errors as you type

By turning on Autocorrect, you can allow capitalization errors and common typing mistakes to be replaced while you type. Before Autocorrect will work, you must create a list of commonly misspelled words and associate them with the correct spelling.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Autocorrect (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Autocorrect (Mac OS).
  2. Choose Enable Autocorrect. (You can also choose Edit > Spelling > Autocorrect to turn this feature on or off quickly.)
  3. From the Language menu, choose which language the autocorrections are applied to.
  4. To correct capitalization errors (such as typing “germany” instead of “Germany”), select Autocorrect Capitalization Errors. You don’t need to add the capitalized words to the list of autocorrections.
  5. To add a word that you commonly misspell, click Add, type the misspelled word (such as “teh”), type the correction (such as “the”), and then click OK.
  6. Continue to add words that you commonly misspell, and then click OK.

When you type any misspelled word you added to the list, the word is automatically replaced by the word you entered as the correction.

To remove autocorrect words you’ve added, select the word in the list and choose Remove. To edit autocorrect words, select the word, click Edit, retype the correction, and click OK.

Use dynamic spelling

When dynamic spelling is enabled, you can correct spelling errors by using the context menu. Potentially misspelled words are underlined (based on the dictionary associated with the language of the text). If you type text in different languages, select the text and assign the correct language.

  1. To enable dynamic spelling, choose Edit > Spelling > Dynamic Spelling.

    Potentially misspelled words are underlined in your document.

  2. Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the underlined word, and do one of the following:
    • Select a suggested correction. If a word is repeated or needs to be capitalized, you can choose Delete Repeated Word [word] or Capitalize [word].

    • Select Add [word] To User Dictionary. This automatically adds the word to the current dictionary without opening the Dictionary dialog box. The word remains unchanged in the text.

    • Select Dictionary. This opens the Dictionary dialog box where you can select the Target dictionary, change hyphenation breaks, and specify a language. If you want to add the word to all languages, choose All Languages from the Language menu, and then click Add. The word is added to the selected dictionary and remains unchanged in the text.

    • Select Ignore All to ignore occurrences of this word in all documents. When InDesign is restarted, the word is flagged again as a misspelling.


If you select Ignore All and then decide that you don’t want to ignore that word after all, Choose Ignored Words from the Dictionary List menu in the Dictionary dialog box and remove the word from the list.

Hyphenation and spelling dictionaries

InDesign uses Hunspell dictionaries for most languages to verify spelling and to hyphenate words. You can add words to each dictionary to customize it. You can assign different languages to text, and InDesign uses the appropriate dictionary to handle spelling and hyphenation. You can create additional user dictionaries, and you can import or export word lists saved in a plain text file.

When you customize the words in a dictionary, you actually create lists of added words (words that aren’t already in the dictionary) and removed words (existing dictionary words that you want to be flagged as a potential misspelling). The Dictionary dialog box lets you display and edit added words, removed words, and ignored words (words that are ignored for the current session because you clicked Ignore All). You can add words that apply to all languages, which is especially useful for last names, street names, and other items that aren’t specific to a language.


If you want to use the language dictionaries from a previous version of InDesign or InCopy, use your system Find command to locate the user dictionary files (.udc), and then add them to your list of dictionaries in Dictionary preferences.

Where dictionary words are stored

By default, hyphenation and spelling exceptions are located in user dictionary files stored outside the document on the computer where InDesign is installed (dictionary filenames end with a .clam or .not extension). However, you can also store exception lists inside any InDesign document. In addition, you can store word lists in an external user dictionary, in the document, or in both. The location of existing dictionaries appears in the Dictionary preferences.

Storing hyphenation and spelling exceptions inside a document makes it easier to treat text consistently when you move that document to other computers. For this reason, you can merge the user dictionary into the document in Dictionary preferences. You can also control the location of exceptions from the Create Package Folder dialog box (see Package files). In contrast, storing an exception list outside the document makes it easier to use the same list of exceptions for multiple documents.


If the user dictionary is merged into the exceptions list, the entire user dictionary is added to the document, even if the words are not used, thereby increasing the document’s file size.

Applying languages to text

You can use the Language menu in the Character panel to apply a language to selected text. You can also specify a default language for an entire document, or for all new documents. InDesign also includes a language locking feature that prevents the language setting in Asian text from being changed when it is part of a selection and a non-Asian language is chosen from the Language menu. (See Assign a language to text.)

Exception word lists

You can exclude words from being considered. For example, if you want to use an alternate spelling for a common word such as “bicycle,” which you may need to spell in a different way for your company name or for a specific document, add the word to the list of excluded words so that it will be flagged during a spell check. InDesign can maintain a separate set of added and removed words for each installed language.

Create or add user dictionaries

You can create a user dictionary, or you can add user dictionaries from previous InDesign or InCopy versions, from files that others have sent you, or from a server where your workgroup’s user dictionary is stored. The dictionary you add is used for all your InDesign documents.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Dictionary (Windows) or InDesign  > Preferences > Dictionary (Mac OS).
  2. From the Language menu, choose the language with which you want to associate the dictionary.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • To create a new dictionary, click the New User Dictionary icon below the Language menu. Specify the name and location of the user dictionary (which includes a .udc extension), and then click Save.

    • To add an existing dictionary, click the Add User Dictionary icon , select the user dictionary file, which includes a .udc or .not extension, and then click Open.


If you can’t find the dictionary file, you might want to use your system Find command to locate the .udc files (try using *.udc), note the location, and then try again.

The dictionary is added to the list under the Language menu. You can add words to the dictionary when checking spelling or by using the Dictionary dialog box.

Set the default language dictionary for the current document

You can change the default language dictionary for a document or for all new documents you create. Changing the default dictionary in an existing document doesn’t affect text that has already been created or text that you type into an existing text frame.


Use the Character Style or Paragraph Style panel to set a specific dictionary for a specific style. The Language menu appears in the Advanced Character Formats section.

  1. Open the document.
  2. Select the Selection tool from the toolbar and make sure no items are selected in the document.
  3. Choose Type > Character.
  4. Choose the desired dictionary from the Language menu on the Character panel. If you cannot see the language option in the Character panel, select Show Options and then select your language from the list.

Set the default language dictionary for all new documents

  1. Start InDesign, but do not open a document.
  2. Choose Type > Character.
  3. Choose the desired dictionary from the Language pop‑up menu on the Character panel. If you cannot see the language option in the Character panel, select Show Options and then select your language from the list.
  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Dictionary (Windows) or InDesign  > Preferences > Dictionary (Mac OS).
  2. From the Language menu, choose the language to which the dictionary belongs.
  3. Do any of the following:
    • To remove a dictionary from the list, select it and click the Remove User Dictionary icon . You must have at least one dictionary per language.

    • If the language dictionary includes a question mark icon next to it, select the dictionary, click the Relink User Dictionary icon , and then locate and open the user dictionary.

    • To change the order of the user dictionaries, drag them. The order of the dictionaries in the list is the order in which the dictionaries are checked.

Add words to dictionaries

If, during a spell check, InDesign displays an unfamiliar word in the Check Spelling dialog box, select the dictionary from the Add To menu, and then click Add. You can also use the Dictionary dialog box to let you specify the target dictionary and language, and to indicate how words are added to an exception word list.

  1. Choose Edit > Spelling > User Dictionary.
  2. In the Language menu, choose a language. Each language contains at least one dictionary. If you want the word to be added to all languages, choose All Languages.
  3. In the Target menu, choose the dictionary where you want to store the word. The Target menu lets you store the changes in an external user dictionary or in any open document.
  4. In the Dictionary List menu, choose Added Words.
  5. In the Word box, type or edit the word to be added to the word list.
  6. Click Hyphenate to see the word’s default hyphenation. Tildes (~) indicate possible hyphenation points.
  7. If you don’t like the hyphenation points, follow these guidelines to indicate your preferred hyphenation of the word:
    • Type one tilde (~) to indicate the best possible hyphenation points, or the only acceptable hyphenation point, in the word.

    • Type two tildes (~~) to indicate your second choice.

    • Type three tildes (~~~) to indicate a poor but acceptable hyphenation point.

    • If you want the word never to be hyphenated, type a tilde before its first letter.


    If you need to include an actual tilde in a word, type a backslash before the tilde (\~).

  8. Click Add, and then click Done. The word is added to the currently selected Dictionary List.

Remember that hyphenation points interact with the hyphenation settings in your documents. As a result, the word might not break where you expect it to. Control these settings by choosing Hyphenation in the Paragraph panel menu. (See Hyphenate text.)

Remove or edit words in dictionaries

  1. Choose Edit > Spelling > User Dictionary.
  2. In the Language menu, choose a language.
  3. In the Target menu, choose the dictionary from which you want to remove the word. The Target menu lets you choose an external user dictionary or any open document.
  4. In the Dictionary List menu, do one of the following:
    • To modify the list of additions to the selected Target word list, choose Added Words.

    • To modify the list of words that are flagged as misspelled, choose Removed Words.

    • To modify the list of words that are being ignored during the current InDesign session, choose Ignored Words. This list includes all the words for which you’ve chosen Ignore All.

  5. In the word list, edit the word, or select the word and click Remove.
  6. Click Done.

Export a word list

You can export word lists to a text file (.txt) and then import that list of words into a user dictionary in InDesign. The words in the text file must be separated by a space, tab, or paragraph return. You can export added words and removed words, but you cannot export ignored words, which are used only in the current session.

  1. Choose Edit > Spelling > User Dictionary.
  2. Choose the language from the Language menu and the dictionary from the Target menu that contains the list of words you want to export.
  3. Click Export, specify the filename and location, and then click Save.

The list of words is saved in a text file. You can edit this list of words in any text editor, and then import the word list. You can also send the word list to others, who can import it into their user dictionaries.

Import a word list

  1. Choose Edit > Spelling > User Dictionary.
  2. Choose the language from the Language menu and the dictionary from the Target menu.
  3. Click Import, locate the text file containing your list of spelling exceptions, and then click Open.

Change dictionary preferences

Use Dictionary preferences to specify how InDesign handles hyphenation and spelling dictionaries. Most languages in InDesign use Proximity dictionaries to verify spelling and to hyphenate words. If you have installed hyphenation or spelling components from a different company, you can select a different vendor for each installed language.


The Dictionary Preferences dialog box does not enable you to specify the language dictionary used for spell checking or hyphenating text. This dialog box is used to specify which hyphenation and spelling plug‑ins InDesign uses for the language specified in the Language field. If you use only the default hyphenation and spelling plug‑in, you don't need to change any settings in the Dictionary Preferences dialog box. If you install a different spelling or hyphenation plug‑in provided by a third-party developer, it appears as an option in the Hyphenation Vendor and Spelling Vendor menus in this dialog box. This would let you select one vendor's hyphenation or spelling engine for some languages and another vendor's hyphenation or spelling engine for other languages.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Dictionary (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Dictionary (Mac OS).
  2. For Language, specify the language for which you want to edit settings or change the hyphenation or spelling vendor.
  3. Create, add, or remove user dictionaries. (See Create or add user dictionaries.)
  4. If you have installed a hyphenation component from a company other than Adobe, select it in the Hyphenation menu.
  5. If you have installed a spelling dictionary component from a company other than Adobe, select it in the Spelling menu.
  6. In the Compose Using menu in the Hyphenation Exceptions menu, do one of the following:
    • To compose text using the hyphenation exceptions list stored in the external user dictionary, choose User Dictionary.

    • To compose text using the hyphenation exceptions list stored inside the document, choose Document.

    • To compose text using both lists, choose User Dictionary And Document. This is the default setting.

  7. To add the exceptions list stored in the external user dictionary to the exceptions list stored within the document, select Merge User Dictionary Into Document.

    If you work with many different partners or clients, you might want to deselect the Merge User Dictionary Into Document option. For example, if you’re a service provider, you probably don’t want your user dictionary merged with every customer’s file.

  8. To recompose all stories when certain settings are changed, select Recompose All Stories When Modified. Selecting this option recomposes stories when you change the Compose Using settings (see step 6) or when you use the Dictionary command to add or remove words. Recomposing all stories can take some time, depending on the amount of text in the document.
  9. Click OK.

Using dictionaries in a workgroup

Make sure that each station in your workgroup has the same customized user dictionaries installed and added, so that a document uses the same spelling and hyphenation rules regardless of who is working on it. You can either make sure that everyone adds the same dictionaries to their computer, or you can share a user dictionary over the network server.

A lock icon  indicates that a dictionary is locked and can be used, but not edited. When a user dictionary is stored on a server, the first user to load the dictionary locks the file; all subsequent users see that the dictionary is locked. Files can also be locked through the operating system, when the file is made read-only. If you share a user dictionary over the network server, you may want to lock the file so that it’s read-only for all users, allowing only the administrator to add words.

Make sure that everyone in the workgroup uses the customized user dictionary installed on the common network workstation, and not the dictionary stored with a document. However, before you take a document to a service provider, you might want to merge the user dictionary into the document.

If you don’t share a customized user dictionary on a common network workstation, locate user dictionary files and copy them from one workstation to another. The location of user dictionaries appear in the Dictionary preferences.


After you update a shared workstation’s user dictionary, the changes don’t appear in individual workstations until a user restarts InDesign or presses Ctrl+Alt+/ (Windows) or Command+ Option+/ (Mac OS) to recompose all text.

Duden dictionary

Duden is integrated natively in InDesign. You can use Duden for more accurate German hyphenation and spell checking.

  1. To use Duden dictionary in InDesign to work with German language, go to:

    • Windows: Edit > Preferences > Dictionary
    • macOS: InDesign  > Preferences > Dictionary
  2. Select one of the following language from the Language drop-down:

    • German: 1996 Reform
    • German: 2006 Reform
    • German: Austria 2006 Reform
    • German: Swiss
    • German: Swiss 2006 Reform

    A new language German:Austria 2006 Reform has been introduced.

  3. Select Duden from the Hyphenation and Spelling drop-down, if not selected by default.


Duden hyphenation styles

Duden offers four different hyphenation styles for German words. All but unaesthetic is the default style:


This allows all hyphenations that are technically correct and that doesn’t go against the spelling rules. For example, both Ur-ins-tinkt and Ur-in-s-tinkt are correct.

All but unaesthetic:

This allows all hyphenations, except unaesthetic hyphenations where the sense of the word might be distorted. For example, Ur-ins-tinkt is allowed but Ur-in-s-tinkt is not allowed. This is the default style.

Preferred aesthetic:

Besides words with defined aesthetic hyphenation, longer words (minimum six characters), for which no aesthetic hyphenation has been defined, are also hyphenated. For example, Napoleon is hyphenated as Na-po-leon although it has no aesthetic hyphenation defined.


Only hyphenation defined as aesthetic is applied. For example, Auto-bahn but not Au-tobahn.

Duden hyphenation options are available from:

  • Hyphenation settings while creating a new paragraph style.

  • Paragraph panel menu > Hyphenation.

Some more examples of Duden hyphenation styles

If you do not see the Duden hyphenation option, go to Preferences > Dictionary and select Show Hyphenation Options. This option is selected by default.


The German language allows several spelling variants for a large number of words, such as Delphin vs Delfin or Graphik vs Grafik.

There are four spell-check styles. To have a consistent writing, where only one of the valid spelling variants (for example either Delphin or Delfin) is accepted, choose either Duden, Conservative, or Press agencies. However, if you just want to mark only invalid spellings as errors, choose Tolerant.

Duden is selected by default. You can select other options from Preferences > Dictionary > Spelling.

Duden spell-check styles


Only the correct variation recommended by Duden is accepted. Other variants are marked as errors.

Press agencies:

Same as Duden but with a different rule set agreed by multiple press agencies and publishing houses.


Accept only old spelling variants like Delphin but not Delfin. Similarly, Graphik is accepted but not Grafik (ph instead of f).


Accept any valid spelling. For example, both Graphik and Grafik are correct. Similarly, both Delphin and Delfin are correct.

Some more examples of spell-check

Spell-check style

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Example 5


Geograf is correct, Geograph is incorrect

Joghurt is correct, Jogurt is incorrect

Fotosynthese is correct, Photosynthese is incorrect

Motocross is correct, Moto-Cross is incorrect

Fundraising is correct, Fund-Raising is incorrect


Geograph is correct, Geograf is incorrect

Joghurt is correct, Jogurt is incorrect

Photosynthese is correct, Fotosynthese is incorrect

Moto-Cross is correct, Motocross is incorrect

Fund-Raising is correct, Fundraising is incorrect

Press agencies

Geograf is correct, Geograph is incorrect

Joghurt is correct, Jogurt is incorrect

Photosynthese is correct, Fotosynthese is incorrect

Moto-Cross is correct, Motocross is incorrect

Fundraising is correct, Fund-Raising is incorrect


both are correct

both are correct

both are correct

both are correct

both are correct


To set Duden spelling vendors using scripting, use the following German names for the spell-check styles:

  • Duden
  • Duden: Konservativ
  • Duden: Presse
  • Duden: Tolerant
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