How to “remove” a word from Word's main spelling dictionary

Or how to make a word that Word thinks is correctly spelt show as a spelling error

Article contributed by Suzanne S. Barnhill

Not for Mac Word: Due to a bug, exclusion dictionaries do not work at all in Mac Word 2004 and 2008.  Although the technique described in this article is correct, exclusion dictionaries do not work; and there is no way around that.

To make Word question the spelling of a word that is “correctly” spelled according to its dictionary, you need to add the word to an “exclusion” dictionary. An exclusion dictionary causes Word's spelling engine to ignore the entries in the main dictionary for the words it contains.

This technique can be a very helpful adjunct to AutoCorrect. For example, I frequently mistype “about” as “abut.” I could get AutoCorrect to change “abut” to “about,” but this might happen without my noticing it sometimes when “abut” was what I really meant. I don't use “abut” anywhere near as often as “about,” though, so I don't mind having it marked as misspelled (even when it isn't) if it saves me from missing a misspelled “about.” I also made haste to add “pubic” to my exclusion dictionary when I realized that on my business brochure I'd cited the Fairhope Pubic Library as one of my references!

Note that the procedure for using exclusion dictionaries in Word 2007 differs considerably from that in previous versions, so make sure you read the appropriate section below.

Word 2003 and earlier

Create the exclusion dictionary

Creating exclusion dictionaries is described in the Word Help topic "Specify a preferred spelling for a word." Unfortunately, the Help files and articles on the subject are misleading and, in places, inaccurate.

Save the exclusion dictionary

Your next challenge is to find out what to use as the file name for your dictionary. To do this, you need to find the name of the main dictionary (lexicon) file. In the case of Office 2000 and above it will be called Mssp3*.lex, where * represents your language. In Office 97, the file is Mssp2_*.lex.

  1. First look in the following path:

<systemdrive>:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Proof

Systemdrive stands for the name of the drive in which Windows is installed (usually “C”).

  1. Pray that you see a file named MSSP3EN.LEX in there. If you do, you've found the main English dictionary.

  2. If you do not see that file, use Search in Windows Explorer (My Computer) to search your Program Files folder for MSSP*.LEX. Make sure you click More advanced options and specify that the search is to look in Hidden folders and System folders, or you will not find anything.

  3. If you work in American, Canadian, or UK English, your main dictionary is named MSSP3EN.LEX, so your exclusion dictionary must be named MSSP3EN.EXC.

If you work in other languages, the names are:

Language Dictionary Exclusion Dictionary
Office 2000 and above    
Australian MSSP3ENA.LEX MSSP3ENA.EXC
Spanish MSSP3ES.LEX MSSP3ES.EXC
French MSSP3FR.LEX MSSP3FR.EXC
Office 97    
Australian MSSP2_ENA.LEX MSSP2_ENA.EXC
Spanish MSSP2_ES.LEX MSSP2_ES.EXC
French MSSP2_FR.LEX MSSP2_FR.EXC

In other words, the exclusion dictionary always has the same name as the main dictionary, but with an .exc file extension instead of .lex.

  1. In Office 97, you save the file in the Proof folder where the main dictionary resides.

In Office 2000 and above, you must save the exclusion dictionary in the Proof folder where your custom dictionary is stored. This should be:

<homedrive>:\Documents and Settings\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Proof

Where <homedrive> is usually "C:" drive.

Unfortunately, it sometimes isn't. So you may need to force Word to tell you where it is. In Word 2003, do the following:

File dialog for new custom dictionary

  1. Follow the instructions in the Help topic and save your exclusion dictionary in this location.

Use the exclusion dictionary

Once you have saved the exclusion dictionary, you can make it much easier to use:

Word 2007

You may want to read the material above for general principles, but in Word 2007 you don’t have to create an exclusion dictionary; Microsoft has already done that for you. The challenge instead is to locate the correct dictionary for the language you are using.

Note: It would appear that these dictionaries are created when you use or enable a given language. Each dictionary will be applied only to text in the language specified.

Find the dictionary

  1. Open Microsoft Windows Explorer (My Computer or Computer). An easy way to do this is with the keyboard shortcut Winkey+E, where “Winkey” is the Windows key on your keyboard (the one with the WinKey graphic Windows logo on it).

  2. Navigate to the location where custom dictionaries are stored. The location is usually one of the following:

If you don’t see this folder, do the following:

If you don’t see this folder, do the following:

  1. Locate the exclusion dictionary for the language whose settings you want to change. The name of the file you need to open is ExcludeDictionaryLanguage CodeLanguage LCID.lex.

ExcludeDictionaryEN0C09.lex: English – Australia
ExcludeDictionaryEN2809.lex: English – Belize
ExcludeDictionaryEN1009.lex: English – Canada
ExcludeDictionaryEN2409.lex: English – Caribbean
ExcludeDictionaryEN3C09.lex: English – Hong Kong – SAR
ExcludeDictionaryEN4009.lex: English – India
ExcludeDictionaryEN3809.lex: English – Indonesia
ExcludeDictionaryEN1809.lex: English – Ireland
ExcludeDictionaryEN2009.lex: English – Jamaica
ExcludeDictionaryEN4409.lex: English – Malaysia
ExcludeDictionaryEN1409.lex: English – New Zealand
ExcludeDictionaryEN3409.lex: English – Philippines
ExcludeDictionaryEN4409.lex: English – Singapore
ExcludeDictionaryEN1C09.lex: English – South Africa
ExcludeDictionaryEN2C09.lex: English – Trinidad
ExcludeDictionaryEN0809.lex: English – United Kingdom
ExcludeDictionaryEN0409.lex: English – United States
ExcludeDictionaryEN3009.lex: English – Zimbabwe

Edit the dictionary

  1. Edit the file using the text editor of your choice (such as Notepad or WordPad).

  2. Add each word that you want the spelling checker to flag as misspelled. Be sure to type the words in all lowercase letters, and press ENTER after each word.

  3. Save and close the file.

Going forward

Once you have found the appropriate dictionary file and added words to it, you have passed the highest hurdle. Unfortunately, unlike previous versions, Word 2007 doesn’t allow you to open and edit the exclusion dictionary through the Custom Dictionaries dialog. Therefore, if you want to make it easy to open and edit the file, you may want to create a desktop shortcut to it, add it to your favorites, or, if you are editing it as a text file in Word, pin it to the file list under the Office Button.