by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 21, 2020)
When Fred spell-checks his document, he often chooses to add words to the dictionary. However, this action seems to have a limited life on his system. He frequently finds he has to add the same words to the custom dictionary again and again. Fred has not set up multiple custom dictionaries on his system, so he doesn't understand what would cause the previously added words to suddenly disappear, requiring them to be added again. Fred wonders how he can persuade Word to permanently remember his specialized words as being spelled correctly.
What seems to be going on here is that, apparently, Microsoft has changed how custom dictionaries work in Word, and they never bothered to tell anyone. Here is the way that you display what custom dictionaries are available to your Word installation:
Figure 1. The Custom Dictionaries dialog box.
The screen shot shown above is exactly how my Custom Dictionaries dialog box appeared back in December 2015. If I now (in October 2016) perform the exact same steps, the Custom Dictionaries dialog box—on the exact same system—looks different. (See Figure 2.)
Figure 2. The new Custom Dictionaries dialog box.
The important thing to note here is that an entirely different custom dictionary is marked as "default" than a few months ago. This new dictionary (RoamingCustom.dic) was not one I created; Word apparently created it automatically, presumably in some update to my version of Word. Not only was it created without my knowledge, but it was marked as the default dictionary without any action on my part.
The upshot is that when the change occurs, how Word handles custom words can become a bit flakey. If you display the Custom Dictionaries dialog box, and a check mark doesn't appear next to Custom.dic, then any words you added over the years into that dictionary won't be available during spell checks. (I suspect this is what is happening with Fred's custom dictionary woes.) Further, the dictionary marked as the default (which, nowadays, seems to be RomaingCustom.dic) is where any new words are added.
There are two possibilities to help correct the issue. First, display the Custom Dictionaries dialog box and make sure that check marks appear next to the dictionaries as they should. Second, if Word, over time, keeps "unchecking" Custom.dic without your permission or explicit action, you might consider opening the dictionary (select it and click the Edit Word List button), copying all the words from the list, opening RoamingCustom.dic, and pasting the words into it. Then you can get rid of the old Custom.dic file and your words should always be available since Word seems so intent on making RoamingCustom.dic the default.
By the way, if you are an old-school type of user and you want to edit your custom dictionaries using Notepad, I've seen some reports that RoamingCustom.dic doesn't show up in any file searches in Windows. You can track it down using this path as a pattern:
There are three variables in this pattern: username, ver, and number. The username variable will be equal to whatever your username is; the one you used when you logged into Windows. The ver variable is going to vary depending on the version of Word you are using; it will be something like 15.0 or 16.0. Finally, the number variable is some unique number dreamed up by Microsoft for who knows what purpose. If you use Windows Explorer (Windows 7) or File Explorer (later versions of Windows) to dig down and navigate to the folder, you should be able to discern which unique number is being used on your system.
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