Every time I write GPL license the spelling checker of my Mac OS X keeps to underline license in green; if I write GPL License, the spelling checker doesn't underline License.
When I hover the mouse over the word, the Mac shows a tool tip with the following sentence:

The word license may not agree with the rest of the sentence.

This happens whatever I write, even if I write The GPL license is commonly used.

If I write the GPL Licence is commonly used, the word Licence is underlined in red, and I get the suggestion to replace it with License or Licensee.
The same happens if I use licence.

What I am doing wrong?

PS: My Mac is set to use the American English as default language.

2 Answers 2


Strictly speaking, "GPL" is a three letter acronym for GNU General Public License. (Note the AmE spelling.)

“GPL” stands for “General Public License”. The most widespread such license is the GNU General Public License, or GNU GPL for short. This can be further shortened to “GPL”, when it is understood that the GNU GPL is the one intended.

By the way, "GPL License" (with or without the capital L) is an example of the self referentially humorous RAS Syndrome:

the redundant use of one or more of the words that make up an acronym or initialism with the abbreviation itself, thus in effect repeating one or more words

Be aware that some people abhor RAS syndrome so

In writing intended to persuade, impress, or avoid criticism, the writer is wise to avoid them.


You are using the wrong spelling of license.

You should use licence, with a c, as that's a noun and the correct spelling in this context. License with an s is a verb as in: "We must license you to drive." Note this is for British English; in US English license is the noun spelling as well.

As for capitalisation, spell-checkers usually automatically assume anything with a capital letter is a proper noun and thus outside their remit, otherwise they'd annoyingly underline most people's names.

  • 1) In US English, the noun is spelled with an S. 2) In your example, license is actually a noun, not a verb.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 27, 2011 at 10:33
  • 3
    Thanks, but I am still unhappy with the "you should use licence, with a c" part, especially in light of the spelling on gnu.org, Wikipedia, and elsewhere.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 27, 2011 at 10:41
  • 1
    I apologize for not reporting the exact details in my question. First, the word is highlighted in green and not in red as I previously said; then, the default language I set on my Mac is American English.
    – apaderno
    Jan 27, 2011 at 11:06
  • 1
    If I write My name is Licence, the spelling checker underlines License in red, and suggests me to replace the word with License or Licensee; the same happens with Firefox (which uses a different spelling checker) that suggests me to use License. It doesn't seem true that spelling checkers ignore words in capital case.
    – apaderno
    Jan 27, 2011 at 11:18
  • 2
    @ElendilTheTail: "The GNU General Public License", in this context, is a proper name for a specific licence, as defined by the GNU foundation. It isn't a noun phrase referring to all licences that are both general and public.
    – Tim
    Jan 27, 2011 at 13:52

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