Spellchecker agnostic autocorrection
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Fix list display of multiple-correction items
2024-05-12 22:45:53 +08:00
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autocorrect.el Fix list display of multiple-correction items 2024-05-12 22:45:53 +08:00



Automatically build an autocorrection abbrev table that fixes misspellings and typos on-the-fly.

Compared to simply adding a correction to the global abbrev table whenever a correction is made, autocorrect:

  • Allows setting a minimum number of occurrences before a correction becomes automatic, both on an all-time level and within the current session.
  • Manages its abbrev table independently of the user abbrev tables
  • Allows multiple Emacs sessions to all contribute to the same autocorrection list, without race conditions
  • Makes combining autocorrect data across machines easy: just concatenate the autocorrect data files
  • Recognises that some but not all words are the same in upper and lower case. For example "teh" and "Teh" should become "the" and "The" respectively, but only "Bayex" should become "Bayeux".
  • Allows certain words to be ignored, i.e. never be autocorrected


Some time soon after startup, run autocorrect-setup. I like to do this with an idle timer.

(run-with-idle-timer 0.5 nil #'autocorrect-setup)

Remember to hook up the spell checker you're using, make sure abbrev mode is on, and you're good to go.

Spellchecker integration


autocorrect needs to be told when a spelling correction has been made. This should be done through the function autocorrect-record-correction.

At a bare minimum, just invoking autocorrect-record-correction appropriately will make autocorrect start working, however there are two more optional steps to integration that can enhance the experience.

  1. Set autocorrect-check-spelling-function so that letter casing is handled a bit better
  2. Set autocorrect-predicates to control where corrections can occur


(defun autocorrect-jinx-record-correction (overlay corrected)
  "Record that Jinx corrected the text in OVERLAY to CORRECTED."
  (let ((text
          (overlay-start overlay)
          (overlay-end overlay))))
    (autocorrect-record-correction text corrected)))

(defun autocorrect-jinx-check-spelling (word)
  "Check if WORD is valid."
  ;; A copy of `jinx--word-valid-p', just without the buffer substring.
  ;; It would have been nice if `jinx--word-valid-p' war implemented as this
  ;; function with `jinx--this-word-valid-p' (or similar) as the at-point variant.
  (or (member word jinx--session-words)
      ;; Allow capitalized words
      (and (string-match-p "\\`[[:upper:]][[:lower:]]+\\'" word)
            for w in jinx--session-words
            thereis (and (string-equal-ignore-case word w)
                         (string-match-p "\\`[[:lower:]]+\\'" w))))
      (cl-loop for dict in jinx--dicts
               thereis (jinx--mod-check dict word))))

(defun autocorrect-jinx-appropriate (pos)
  "Return non-nil if it is appropriate to spellcheck at POS according to jinx."
  (and (not (jinx--face-ignored-p pos))
       (not (jinx--regexp-ignored-p pos))))

(setq autocorrect-check-spelling-function #'autocorrect-jinx-check-spelling)
(add-to-list 'autocorrect-predicates #'autocorrect-jinx-appropriate)
(advice-add 'jinx--correct-replace :before #'autocorrect-jinx-record-correction)


(defvar-local autocorrect-flyspell-misspelling)

(defun autocorrect-flyspell-insert (word)
  "Insert WORD and record the correction with autocorrect.el."
   (or autocorrect-flyspell-misspelling flyspell-auto-correct-word)
  (insert word))

(defun autocorrect--flyspell-do-correct-a (oldfun replace poss word cursor-location start end save)
  "Wraps `flyspell-do-correct' to store the word it's correcting."
  (let ((autocorrect-flyspell-misspelling word))
    (funcall oldfun replace poss word cursor-location start end save)))

(setq flyspell-insert-function autocorrect-flyspell-insert)
(advice-add 'flyspell-do-correct :around #'autocorrect--flyspell-do-correct-a)

Why use autocorrection?

If you want to write without looking like you skipped a chunk of primary/secondary school (as I do), then autocorrect is a handy thing to have. Beyond just misspellings, it can also help with typos, and lazy capitalisation (can you really be bothered to consistently type "LuaLaTeX" instead of "lualatex" and "SciFi" over "scifi"?). However, primarily thanks to smartphones, I more often hear people cursing autocorrect than praising it. With that in mind, I think it's worth giving some thought to how smartphone autocorrect gets its bad reputation (despite largely doing a decent job):

  1. Typing is harder on smartphones, and so autocorrect makes bigger (more speculative) guesses
  2. People type (and mistype) differently, but autocorrect tries to have a "one size fits all" profile that is refined over time
  3. As soon as you accept a particular correction, autocorrect can start applying that even when the original typo is ambiguous and has multiple "corrected" forms
  4. It's hard to tell the phone to stop doing a particular autocorrect (see "Emacs" recapitalised as "eMacs" on Apple devices)

I think we can largely alleviate these problems by

  1. Being mainly used on devices with actual keyboards
  2. Starting with an empty autocorrect "profile", built up by the user over time
  3. Having a customisable threshold before a repeated correction is made into an autocorrection, and blacklisting misspellings with multiple distinct corrections.
  4. Making it easy to blacklist certain words from becoming autocorrections

Another complaint about autocorrect is that it lets you develop bad habits, and if anything a tool that got you to retype the correct spelling several times would be more valuable in the long run. I think this is a pretty reasonable complaint, and have two different trains of thought that both justify tracking corrections made:

  • I almost never leave Emacs for writing more than a text message, so what if I type worse outside of it?
  • By tracking corrections made, you can also make a personal "most common misspellings" training list to run through at your leasure or when committing a misspelling. Just set the "minimum replacement count" to a stupidly high number and optionally make use of autocorrect-post-correct-hook.