Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Creating a Spelling Exclusion List.

Creating a Spelling Exclusion List

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 15, 2016)

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The spell checker used by Word can be a great tool, but sometimes it seems that words you know should be in the dictionary aren't and other words that are there seem silly or are outright wrong. In either case, it would be nice to edit the default Word spelling dictionary.

Unfortunately, the default dictionary used by Word is stored in a binary format and is not editable. There is a two-fold approach that Microsoft has chosen to implement when it comes to the dictionaries. First, you can use custom dictionaries. These are text files that allow you to add words the spell checker should consider as being spelled OK. Editing the custom dictionaries is discussed fully in different WordTips issues.

The second approach is that you can use exclude lists. The exclude list is a text file following the same format as the custom dictionaries (a text file with a single word on each line). The difference is that these words are marked as incorrectly spelled no matter what. Thus, it is a backwards way to "remove" words from the default dictionary.

Exclude files, again, are standard text files. This means you can edit them with any text editor, such as Notepad, or with a word processor such as Word (provided you save in a text-only format). When Word is installed there is at least one exclude file created. The file is empty, just waiting for you to add words to it. The biggest trick is in finding the exclude file (or files).

The easiest way to locate the exclude files is to use your favorite "find file" method within Windows. Look for a file that begins with the words "ExcludeDictionary" and has a file extension of LEX. On my Windows 2010 system I was able to locate the following three files:

ExcludeDictionaryEN0409.lex
ExcludeDictionaryEN0809.lex
ExcludeDictionaryFR040c.lex

Note that the full name of the exclude file includes a two-character language code (EN is English and FR is French) and four hexadecimal digits that are called a "language LCID." This is a locale ID which indicates a further breakdown of which dialect of a language the exclude file applies to. You can find an agonizingly long list of these codes here:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/goglobal/bb964664.aspx

Assuming you have more than one of the exclude files on your system (as I do), then you need to figure out which of them you should edit. In my case I wanted to add words to the American English file, since that is the dialect and language I use in my writing. The EN portion of the name is easy. In looking up the language LCID codes, I find that the one I need is the one that uses EN0409.

Now that you know which file you need to use, all I need to do is right-click the file and choose to open it using Notepad. You can then enter into the file all the words you want excluded from the dictionary (marked incorrect) by Word. You just need to put one per line, making sure that you include all forms or possessives of the word. (For instance, if you wanted to exclude theater you should also exclude theaters and theater's.)

Once you save the file and restart Word, you are set to go. (You must restart Word because the program only pays attention to the exclude file and any new words it contains when you first start the program.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8695) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Creating a Spelling Exclusion List.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is 7 - 0?

2017-02-01 12:11:06

Josephine Conejo

THANK YOU for this tip. Scoured the net to find this info, and no one else has it. Much appreciated.


2014-01-15 11:06:21

S M Smith

I love this tip -- thank you! I have set up my Word 2013 to flag some of my bad habit words, and I am teaching my college students how to do this.

But I'm wondering why I have to find this buried file to do it, and why the excluded words file that comes up when I go through the Options>Proofing menu in Word itself doesn't work. ?? When I add words there, it still doesn't flag them, and it won't let me add the filename of this wonderful file you have pointed me to to the list, alongside the custom dictionaries and the (useless) excluded words file. Why why why? How can I get the built-in file to work?

It would be so much easier to teach my students how to set up this list if they could go through the relevant Word menu, rather than having to do this hack.

Thanks for posting this -- invaluable, and the only description of it I have found, that works.


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