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Personal Dictionary for Ispell

© September 2005 Tony Lawrence
September 2005

Ispell works well, but it has to be the most confused project I've ever seen. I started looking into this because I got tired of seeing the same common words pop up for correction and wanted to add those words to some file that would cause Ispell to ignore them. Of course the first thing I did was try "man ispell". To my surprise, nothing came up. I did a "rpm -q --whatprovides `which ispell`" and found that it belongs to aspell-0.50.3-19.1, but "man aspell" and "info aspell" turned up nothing either.

This was interesting also:

$ ispell -v
@(#) International Ispell Version 3.1.20 (but really Aspell 0.50.3)

I did a "rpm -q --list aspell-0.50.3-19.1" and found some html documentation pages, but couldn't seem to find any easy way to add a simple list of words to ignore.

A Google search turned up https://www.gnu.org/software/ispell/ispell.html. If that's supposed to be documentation, I knew I was in big trouble. But I pressed on, and found https://cclib.nsu.ru/projects/gnudocs/gnudocs/ispell/ispell_toc.html which talked about using Ispell with emacs but also mentioned:

Your private dictionary

Whenever ispell is started the file `.ispell_words' is read from
your home directory (if it exists). This file contains a list of
words, one per line. The order of the words is not important, but
the case is. Ispell will consider all of the words good, and will
use them as possible near misses.

The I command adds words to `.ispell_words', so normally you don't
have to worry about the file. You may want to check it from time
to time to make sure you have not accidentally inserted a misspelled

Great, just what I needed. Except it didn't work. To see why, I ran ispell with strace and looked for any attempt to open a file that failed. All I got was this:

open("/etc/aspell.conf", O_RDONLY)      = -1 ENOENT (No such file 
or directory)
open("/home/pcunixapl/.aspell.conf", O_RDONLY) = -1 ENOENT (No such file 
or directory)

Well, heck, I'd already read about those files, and they weren't going to help me. I checked all the "open" calls and nothing looked for a .ispell_words file.

So far, I'm stymied. It looks like the only way to do this is to build a custom dictionary, but that's not what I want. I want what the Emacs guide promised: "The I command adds words to `.ispell_words', so normally you don't have to worry about the file."

So, so far I have nothing.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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-> Personal Dictionary for Ispell


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Thu Sep 8 14:00:29 2005: 1064   MikeHostetler

It seems that you are running aspell in ispell mode (which you probably figured out). I prefer aspell -- I think that it does a better job trying to guess my horrible spelling.

Try looking for ~/.aspell.en.pws -- that is where mine is at.

Or you can just do:
aspell dump personal

Which will dump your personal dictionary.

Thu Sep 8 15:17:34 2005: 1065   TonyLawrence

Ah, yes, I see. And actually that seems to work just as I want it to: I can add words to it, but Ispell's "I" doesn't - which is exactly what I want.


Fri Apr 11 04:51:10 2008: 4027   anonymous

I found the easiest way to add a few words to a personal dictionary was to use the pipe mode aspell -a. To summarise the commands, use *word to add a word to the personal dictionary and # to save the personal dictionary.


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