Vim Spell Check

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I recently came across an embarrassing typo on my own website. Buried deep in a paragraph of HTML inside a Rails HAML template, there was a glaring spelling mistake. I quickly raced back to Vim and opened the template and spell checked the whole file. How? With :set spell, Vim spell check.

Many novice Vim users are unaware that spell checking is built in and as easy as enabling with :set spell. As a veteran Vim user, I was aware of spell checking and how to turn it on, but I frequently forget the full complement of commands. So for anyone that needs reminding, here are the basics for getting the most out of Vim’s spell checker:

  • :set spell – Turn on spell checking
  • :set nospell – Turn off spell checking
  • ]s – Jump to the next misspelled word
  • [s – Jump to the previous misspelled word
  • z= – Bring up the suggested replacements
  • zgGood word: Add the word under the cursor to the dictionary
  • zwWoops! Undo and remove the word from the dictionary

In the screencast below, I’ve demonstrated a few of these. With the file open, :set spell has already been enabled. I find the first misspelled word with ]s. It’s actually correctly spelled, it’s the name of my status page monitoring service, StatusGator. So I add the word to the dictionary with zg. Then I find the next misspelling with ]s and press z= to pull up the suggestion list. Finally, I press 2 to choose the replacement.

Vim Spell Checking demo screencast

How do I turn on Vim spell check?

Use :set spell to enable spell check in Vim.

How do I turn off Vim spell check?

You can disable spell checking in Vim with :set nospell.

How do I find misspelled words in Vim?

With :set spell enabled in Vim, you can navigate to the next misspelled word using ]s and to navigate to the previous misspelled word, use [s.

How do I see spelling suggestions in Vim?

With :set spell enabled in Vim, put your cursor on a misspelled word and press z= to see a list of suggestions for the misspelled word.

How do I add a word to the Vim dictionary?

To add a word to Vim spell check dictionary, first enable spell check with :set spell then put your cursor on a misspelled word. Press zg (think of it as "g" for "good") and Vim will add it to the local dictionary.

How do I remove a word from the Vim dictionary?

You can remove a word from the Vim dictionary by putting your cursor on a misspelled word and pressing zw.

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Written by

Colin Bartlett

105 Posts

Vim enthusiast and software developer for more than 20 years.
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