How to set the default language in Mac OSX or Pages to be Australian or British English

How hard is it to find this somewhere straight-forward on the net? Very hard evidently, because how many people come here.

Edit: now updated for Yosemite. Older version below.

Step 1: Open Language & Region:Screenshot 2014-10-25 11.47.13

Step 2: Go to the language list and click +:
Screenshot 2014-10-25 11.47.59Step 3: Select the language desired – in this case English (Australia) and click Add:Screenshot 2014-10-25 11.48.42

Step 4 – Mac OS X Yosemite prompts you to use the new one as your primary language – select this and you’re good to go:
Screenshot 2014-10-25 11.48.56This is what it should look like:
Screenshot 2014-10-25 11.49.10

Now for spelling dictionaries – Yosemite has system-wide spell-checking, so we need to order it there. Pages (and other apps) will pick this up automatically. This time, we go to the Keyboard pref pane:Screenshot 2014-10-25 12.05.10

Click over to the Text tab, and we’ll see the spelling drop-down over on the right – usually this is set to auto, but let’s go through setup to confirm what we need:Screenshot 2014-10-25 12.06.10In the setup window, you can pick which dictionaries apply – so if you’re not going to type in Russian or Polish, for instance, you can remove these: Screenshot 2014-10-25 12.08.10

You can drag to re-order, and click Done to save your preference: Screenshot 2014-10-25 12.09.41

And there you have it!


For Mac OS X Snow Lion and Pages 8 and earlier:

Step 1: Open International pref pane in System Preferences


Step 2: On the Languages tab, click on “Edit List”


Your list of languages already in the list might be longer – e.g., it’ll usually have most of the European languages.

Step 3: Select the language(s) you wish to add and click OK.


Here I’ve chosen both Australian English and British English – generally speaking though, these are virtually identical and you only need the one you prefer.

Step 3: The newly selected languages should now be in the list. Order the list to your preference by dragging list items around.


As it says under “Edit List”, the changes will take effect next time you start the application (in the case of Finder, that’s obviously when you restart). Generally speaking, I’d say leave English (i.e., the American one) in there somewhere.

Now you’re done for most of the system stuff. Pages will now create new documents with the top language as the default. However, for existing documents you’ll need to do the following:


Select all text, and then (1) click on Inspector, (2) click on the text tab, (3) select “More” tab, and (4) set the language.

11 Replies to “How to set the default language in Mac OSX or Pages to be Australian or British English”

  1. In OS X 10.6.3 (as of this post). There is a new Tab in-between Languages and Formats called TEXT. Click on TEXT and you can force the Australian English dictionary to be used in all spell checking and defaults on programs running in OS X.

  2. @Paul that’s right, and the icon is now labelled “Language and Text” instead of “International”. Thanks for the update!

  3. Many thanks. This is the elegant solution – working within the system. I was quite frustrated by the way Pages would keep flipping back to English when I had set it to British English. I hadn’t thought of it as relating to a system setting.

    Regards, Alan

  4. This has puzzled me for long: even setting the language order with British first, I got US spelling. Until this post I hadn’t bothered to investigate further, but on Lion, and I think (Snow) Leopard too, you need to change the order of the language in two locations in the “Language & Text” preferences:
    1) At the “Language” tab. This one is straightforward
    2) At the text tab. This one is almost hidden: Click on the selector box called “Spelling” (mine reads “Automatic by Language”), in the list of choices that pops up, at the bottom you’ll find “Set Up…” choose that and set the order of the languages there.
    Note: You can also choose to always use e.g. “British English” of course, but that is not as useful al “Automatic by Language” in my opinion.


  5. Does this automatically work in MS office for MAC. I have changed the default language to UK English in “normal template (.dot) but still get americanisations in my documents

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