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Cannot Add Words to Dictionary

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Cannot Add Words to Dictionary.

Richard notes that when doing a spelling check in the background, Word dutifully underlines words it thinks are spelled incorrectly. However, when he right-clicks on the word in order to add it to the dictionary, he finds the "add to dictionary" option grayed out, so that he cannot add it.

The most likely cause for this situation is that the language of the word you are trying to add doesn't match the language of the dictionary. Word keeps track of the language of both your text and allows you to specify with what language a dictionary should be associated. You can check the language of your dictionary in this manner:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click Proofing at the left side of the dialog box.
  3. Click on the Custom Dictionaries button. Word displays the Custom Dictionaries dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Custom Dictionaries dialog box.

  5. In the list of dictionaries, select the one you want to check.
  6. At the bottom of the dialog box is the Language drop-down list. This should be set to All Languages.
  7. Close all the open dialog boxes when you are done.

If you have the custom dictionary set to something other than All Languages in step 5, then Word only lets you add words that are in the language you specified. In other words, if you set the language in step 6 to French, then you won't be able to add any words that are in English, German, Spanish, or some other language. You can always set up multiple custom dictionaries and make sure that each of them is configured to the different languages in which you are working.

If the above steps don't solve the problem, then it is possible that you don't have a custom dictionary set up on your system. Of course, if you tried to go through the above steps, you would have noticed fairly easily that there wasn't a custom dictionary—there would have been nothing shown in the Custom Dictionaries dialog box (step 3).

You could also check to make sure that the dictionary is accessible by you and that you have rights to work on it. This potential problem normally only crops up if you are using a custom dictionary on a network and you don't have sufficient permissions to make changes to the file. If you suspect this is an issue in your case, you should talk with your network administrator to get it checked out.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10908) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Cannot Add Words to Dictionary.

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Comments for this tip:

John Orford    29 Sep 2015, 08:14
I cannot understand the suggestion that the word to be added should match the language. In my old set-up of Win7 Ultimate and Word 2007 I could add anything. I've even added wrong spellings by carelessness. This fault seems to crept in after an update. None of the ideas here, nor others elsewhere, have worked for me.
FitzGerald    16 Sep 2015, 19:53
Thank you! This has been driving me mad for months!
carol o'shea    20 Aug 2015, 18:57
I have read all the tips above: I still cannot add the word 'carer' to the custom dictionary. I know several people who have carers - it is an accepted word today. I can click "add word" until I type the 'r' on the end of 'carer' when it becomes greyed out. I use English UK as my language for docs but have checked'all languages' on the proofing page. If I right-click the word I do not have the option to 'add to dictionary'
Dabassmann    07 Aug 2015, 10:16
Hi Dizlem, Your suggestion of making the Custom.DIC the default is what fixed my "Add to Dictionary" to become active. Thanks!!!

Dizlem 23 Dec 2014, 10:45
This also resolves the issue:

set CUSTOM.DIC to be default
Amin Ayoubi    16 Jun 2015, 10:39
I followed the steps mentioned above and that problem was solved.
Brian    03 May 2015, 21:02
Hi CaSondra

Go to 'Word Options'>Proofing> there should be a 'Custom Dictionaries' Button. Click on that and it will show the text box with the Custom.dic (default) shown. Within the text box there should be an 'Edit Word List' button. Click on that and you can 'Add' words such as pH with no problem.

I tried it to make sure that it works for me.
Finn    25 Apr 2015, 02:50
Hey K.vee,

You can add your own words to this dictionary which means that the setting will always be there.
Dr. S. Y. Kazmi    12 Apr 2015, 02:01
Thank you so very much. This was a great help for me.
CaSondra    08 Apr 2015, 10:29
I am trying desperately to add the word "pH" to the dictionary (customer or regular). Now, it either highlights it or changes it to PH. This is driving me insane!

Apparently MS Word only will allow addition of words three characters or more into any dictionary. I also tried adding a space to either side, no such luck. Any ideas?

I'm a scientist; pH is used A LOT!
Elizabeth    06 Mar 2015, 07:43
Thank you, AWyatt. Any way to fix the grammar checker?

I should add that there I have found numerous other supposed "errors" that are surely spelling, not grammar. One recent example: no such words as "tine" or "tines" are believed to exist, and Add to Dictionary is grayed out. Yet a fork has tines...
awyatt    05 Mar 2015, 08:59

The error for possessive vs. plural is done by the grammar checker, not by the spelling checker. That's why you cannot add it to the dictionary (and the option is grayed out).

Elizabeth    05 Mar 2015, 08:50
I suspect that whoever compiled the standard dictionary and grammar rules made some arbitrary decisions that are incorrect. That individual or group is so self-assured that they decided to make their errors very difficult to override.

For example, I often use contractions. Today I'm writing about a certain county's laws. Spellcheck insists that I should write "counties" instead. "Counties" is plural; I'm using a possessive. Spellcheck is wrong and I am right, but "Add to Dictionary" is grayed out. Spellcheck is determined to enforce its error!
Dizlem    23 Dec 2014, 10:45
This also resolves the issue:

set CUSTOM.DIC to be default
Alan Scaife    26 Nov 2014, 08:12
I'm afraid your suggestion was no help to me. Using Word 10 for proof correction I always select the correct proofing language and yet the option to add words to the dictionary is frequently grayed out.
D.Killian    18 Nov 2014, 11:41
None of these worked for me either. I also have Win 7 pro as OS.
Mindy    01 Oct 2014, 14:22
Thank you so much! This was exactly the solution I needed!
Merv    23 Jul 2014, 16:13
It didn't work for me until I made CUSTOM.DIC my default selection
K.Vee.Shanker.    08 Nov 2011, 01:28
Hi Allen,

I still have "Add to Dictionary"grayed out. This is despite Word 2007 already having the Dictionary option set as suggested. My system has WIN 7 professional OS.

What else is needed?
K.Vee.Shanker.    07 Nov 2011, 00:12
Hi Allen,

I've two points to make here.

1) MS Word sometimes marks even grammatically correct words as wrong!

2) MS Word also provides only the 'Ignore once' option in many such cases, apart form graying out the 'Add to Dictionary' option.

Now, please suggest a tip to retain the 'Ignore All' option permanently to help in all issues.

My next question is when the custom dictionary is in place, how the regular grammar issues are taken care of?

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