Word dictionary secrecy

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We’d like to tell you more about the English dictionary updates to Office 2013, but Microsoft has chosen secrecy.  Is it secrecy, arrogance or apathy?

Microsoft has started making more regular changes to the English dictionary. For some reason they’ve decided to do it ‘on the QT’ so few people notice.

This all started when someone noticed that Office 2013 wasn’t adding red squiggles to words from the Games of Thrones novels.  Office-Watch.com mentioned this omission last year but didn’t seriously expect Microsoft to do anything.

Microsoft replied to Salon (you can see their full message here) with what amounted to the first public announcement of something they’d been doing for months – adding word to the English language dictionary and doing it on a more regular basis than ever before.

This tweaked our curiosity.  We could not remember seeing any dictionary updates for Office 2013.  So we went looking but could not find anything (Microsoft poorly documents their updates).   So we asked Microsoft for more information and links to the Knowledge Base articles that described the dictionary changes.  After a longer than usual delay, we got a reply, of sorts.

Microsoft repeated the message they sent to Salon and added links to three KB articles.  Those KB articles are three different references to the same March 2015 dictionary update.

This is the sum total of Microsoft’s information to customers about their updates to a crucial part of Office.

KB  2956168 for Office 2013 and  KB 2956153 & KB 295614710 for Sharepoint 2013 – 10 March 2015

Improves the English and Welsh proofing tools in Office 2013. Additionally, this update contains lexical improvements to the English and Welsh spelling lexicon.”

There’s no detail on what changes were made to the proofing tools.  Where they bug fixes or true improvements to how the proofing works?

Microsoft says they are ‘excited to work on features’ for Office – why doesn’t that excitement extend to telling customers all about it?

“Lexical Improvements”

Most people would say ‘add words to the dictionary’, Microsoft now says ‘lexical improvements’ – jeez. Now we know why searches for dictionary updates weren’t finding anything recent – we weren’t using Microsoft new fancy terminology.


The update is marked as ‘Important’ .. why?  Updating the dictionary (sorry, lexicon) hardly justifies as an important update.  Surely a dictionary update should be ‘Optional’?  Maybe

How would you know?

You’re forgiven for not realizing that the Office dictionary had been updated because Microsoft deliberately hides them behind standard phrasing used for every update.

Microsoft has released an update for Microsoft Office 2013 64-Bit Edition. This update provides the latest fixes to Microsoft Office 2013 64-bit Edition.  Additionally, the update contains stability and performance improvements.”

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Does this matter?

It’s a clear example of how Microsoft has changed its attitude to customers.  They’ve always been a bit patronizing and arrogant but it’s got worse in recent years.  The creeping policy has been towards telling customers as little as possible.  Dissenting voices (like Office Watch) are treated with outright hostility for even daring to ask questions.

Maybe we’re supposed to be grateful for the little we’re told?  The Office Mobile teams are even more closed-mouthed than the Office for Windows folks.  Office Mobile updates often merely say they have ‘bug fixes’ with no other detail at all.  At least Office for Windows updates extend to full sentences.

Secrecy, arrogance or apathy?

Tellingly, Microsoft won’t say any more on the topic.  Their exact words are ” We don’t have anything more to share about the process“.  From long experience we know that’s Microsoft PR speak for “Subject Closed. End Of.“.

The company is only prepared to admit to updates in March 2015.  Earlier dictionary updates aren’t even mentioned.

The really weird thing about Microsoft’s dismissive and incomplete response is that it makes the company look worse.  The effect of their reply is the reverse of what ‘public relations’ is supposed to do.

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