Why and how to remove words from the main Microsoft Word dictionary. The Exclusion List ensures there’s a red squiggly underline to warn you about an unwanted word.
Sometimes the supplied Office dictionary has words you don’t want or you’d like a warning about. Here’s how to put the red squiggly line under words that would otherwise be OK according to Microsoft.
It’s called the Exclusion Dictionary and it’s buried deep, too deep, in Word.
Why an exclusion list?
Why would you want to remove words from the Office dictionary? There are several reasons:
All the standard swear words are in the ‘as installed’ Office dictionary. The English language dictionaries for Office include such literary gems as: C**p, C**t, F**k, S**t and racial slurs like – Ni**er and K*ff*r.
These words could easily slip into a document or comments unnoticed because there’s no red squiggly line to catch your eye. You might get a blue squiggly line from the grammar check but there’s no certainty about that.
Words that are too similar
There are commonly misspelled words where the wrong spelling is another valid word – so the misspelling won’t be highlighted by the red squiggly line.
Removing the words from the dictionary means you’ll be alerted and you can check to see if the appropriate spelling was used.
- Coarse / Course
- Know / now
- Principal / Principle
- Public / Pubic
Plus the US / UK spelling variations:
- Color / Colour
- Theatre / Theater
And many, many more ….
If the spelling is correct, right-click on the word and choose ‘Ignore All’ which applies to any other uses of the word in that document
Contextual spell checking
Microsoft argues that the exclusion dictionary isn’t always necessary because Word 2007 and later have contextual spell checking. Microsoft Word doesn’t just look at each word, it looks at the sentence/phrase to see if the word ‘fits’ for example:
‘Pear’ is a correctly spelled word but not this context so it gets a blue squiggle and, if you right-click on it, a suggestion to use ‘pair’ instead.
Words not approved
Some organizations have words that are not approved.
Famously, software companies won’t use the word ‘bug’ – it’s an ‘issue’ or some other euphemism. Removing ‘bug’ from the main dictionary means staff will be alerted anytime it appears.
Another example is an old name for a product, department or company that might accidentally creep into a new or revised document.
The Exclusion Dictionary
For each Microsoft supplied dictionary, there can be a matching ‘exclusion’ dictionary.
The Exclusion Dictionary is a list of words that Microsoft Word will ignore or exclude from the main dictionary list.
Each excluded word:
- Will show as a misspelling in a document with the red squiggly underneath
- Not appear as a suggested spelling.
Each exclusion dictionary is a plain text file that you can edit in Notepad or other text editor.
Separate list for each language and dialect
There is a separate exclusion file for each language variant. That means there’s a separate exclusion file for English (US), English (UK), French (France), French (Canada) and so on. Make sure you choose the right exclusion file for your language.
If you or your organization uses several dialects (e.g. English for US, UK, Australia etc) you have to make a separate Exclusion list for each dialect.
From Word 2007 onwards, Microsoft has made things a little easier by installing blank exclusion dictionaries ready to use. They are located at
Windows 11, 10, 8.1, 7 and all the back to Vista:
for fast access use this link in Explorer
Or go to Options | Proofing | Custom Dictionaries, choose
CUSTOM.DIC then the Browse button. This will open a File | Open dialog, copy the path from the address bar to an Explorer address bar to see all the files in that folder. In the same folder as Custom.DIC are the
AppData/Application Data folders are usually hidden so you may need to un-hide them in Explorer. The folder will look like this:
Custom.dic is your list of custom added words. Ignore the .bin file.
In the above example, Word has created Exclude dictionaries for English: Australia, US, Canada and Ireland. As you can see, the file name is in the format:
- ExcludeDictionary prefix
- Two letter language code EN: English FR:French ES:Spanish
- Four digit HEXadecimal language Locale ID.
- .lex suffix
Here’s some examples:
ExcludeDictionaryEN0809.lex English – United Kingdom
ExcludeDictionaryEN0409.lex English – United States
ExcludeDictionaryEN0C09.lex English – Australia
ExcludeDictionaryEN1009.lex English – Canada
ExcludeDictionaryEN1C09.lex English – South Africa
ExcludeDictionaryAR0C01.lex Arabic – Egypt
ExcludeDictionaryES080A.lex Spanish – Mexico
If the language you want doesn’t have a matching exclude file present, make sure that exact language is properly installed.
Word 2003 and before
Word 2003 and previous versions have an exclusion dictionary for each major language group (English, French etc). Exclusion dictionaries aren’t created for you but are still plain text files you can create.
Go to Program Files/Common Files/Microsoft/SharedProof on whichever drive you’ve installed Office. Look for the .LEX files which are the main dictionaries. The Exclusion Dictionary has the same name as the dictionary but with an .EXC extension.
The main English dictionary is MSSP3EN.LEX so make a matching exclusion dictionary called MSSP3EN.EXC . It’s also a plain text file with one word per line. It’s the same for each language or language variant .LEX file in that folder.
Editing the Exclusion Dictionary
custom.dic file, exclude dictionaries are simple text files. That means, paradoxically, opening in Word is not the best option because Word will want to add all sorts of formatting. Better to open in Notepad, Wordpad or text editor of your choice such as NotePad++.
Important Exclusion list rules
A few important things about the exclude dictionary file:
- lower case only
- one word per line – make sure there’s an ENTER at the end of each word
- especially after the last word
- no multiple word entries (alas, a major limitation of this and the custom dictionary)
The words can be in any order, but if the list gets long you might want to sort it for ease of editing.
Save the exclude file then restart Word or other Office program.
Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint too
We’ve talked about the exclusion dictionary and Word but that’s not the whole story.
The same exclusion dictionaries apply to Excel, PowerPoint and the email editor in Outlook.
Problems & Wish list
For a mature product like Office, this feature could be a lot better. Here’s some ideas which also give you some idea of limitations in Office.
There’s no way to tell that an exclusion dictionary is working, except by typing an excluded word and looking at the result. Options | Proofing | Custom Dictionaries shows you the custom (additive) dictionaries but not the active exclusion files. No excuse for this except an unwillingness by Microsoft to devote some time and money to the issue.
The single word limitation in both the custom and exclusion dictionaries has been there for too long. Doubtless changing to multiple words would take a lot of coding and skull-sweat but the result would ‘tick off’ something that’s been on customer wish lists since the 20th century.
It’s not enough to merely exclude a word from the main dictionary, you should be able to explain why. That especially applies to organizations where users won’t understand the reason for the red squiggly on a word. The exclusion dictionary could have the option for a tooltip narration:
teddie [the preferred spelling is Teddy – like the bear or US President]
or suggestions to add to the right-click menu
Maybe it’s time to have custom/exclusion dictionaries as XML files to allow for more options and flexibility? After all, XML is good enough for other parts of Office configuration.
Having an exclusion dictionary for each language variant seems logical but a nuisance to maintain when there’s multiple languages in use. It would be easier maintenance to have both a global exclusion dictionary for the language (English, French, etc) as well as the variant (US, UK etc.). Office can combine the two text files at startup to make a single exclusion file to work with.
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