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How Linux can help with your spelling

Linux provides all sorts of tools for data analysis and automation, but it also helps with an issue that we all struggle with from time to time – spelling! Whether you’re grappling with the spelling of a single word while you’re writing your weekly report or you want a set of computerized “eyes” to find your typos before you submit a business proposal, maybe it’s time to check out how it can help.

look

One tool is look. If you know how a word begins, you can ask the look command for provide a list of words that start with those letters. Unless an alternate word source is provided, look uses /usr/share/dict/words to identify the words for you. This file with its hundreds of thousands of words will suffice for most of the English words that we routinely use, but it might not have some of the more obscure words that some of us in the computing field tend to use — such as zettabyte.

The look command’s syntax is as easy as can be. Type “look word” and it will run through all the words in that words file and find matches for you.

$ look amelio
ameliorable
ameliorableness
ameliorant
ameliorate
ameliorated
ameliorates
ameliorating
amelioration
ameliorations
ameliorativ
ameliorative
amelioratively
ameliorator
amelioratory

If you happen upon a word that isn’t included in the word list on the system, you’ll simply get no output.

$ look zetta
$

Don’t despair if you’re not seeing what you were hoping for. You can add words to your words file or even reference an altogether different words list — either finding one online and creating one yourself. You don’t even have to place an added word in the proper alphabetical location; just add it to the end of the file. You do need to do this as root, however. For example (and be careful with that >>!):

# echo “zettabyte” >> /usr/share/dict/words

Using a different list of words (“jargon” in this case) just requires adding the name of the file. Use a full path if the file is not the default.


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