Create an Exclusion Dictionary

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

Although you can edit a "custom" (user) dictionary that you have created, it is not possible to edit Word's main spelling lexicon, but you can trick Word into thinking you have. 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 and above differs considerably from that in previous versions, so make sure you read the appropriate section below.

Important Note for All Versions: You must restart Word for the exclusion dictionary to take effect.

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.

  • Create your exclusion dictionary as a text file—either using Notepad or by creating a new document in Word and, in the Save As dialog, setting “Files of type” to “Plain Text (*.txt).” when you save it.

  • In your text file, type in the word(s) you want Word to treat as misspelled, one word per paragraph (that is, press Enter after each entry). In other words, you type in the "bad" spellings here. This forces Word to ignore that entry in the dictionary.

  • Do NOT use any capital letters. Type all of your words entirely in lowercase. If you do not, they won't match the main dictionary entries, so they won't work.

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    
Office 97    

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:

  • Go to Tools | Options | Spelling & Grammar and click on Custom Dictionaries…

  • At the bottom of that dialog, the path to your custom dictionary is shown. Regrettably, the dialog is not usually large enough to read the full path.

  • Click the New button on the right. You will see the following dialog:

  • Click the little downward arrow to the right of the Look in: field at the top. It will drop down the full hierarchy as shown. As you can see, this Custom Dictionary is in the default location on the C drive.

  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:

  • Go to Tools | Options | Spelling & Grammar and click on Custom Dictionaries…

  • In the Custom Dictionaries dialog, click Add, which will open the folder where CUSTOM.DIC is stored.

  • Change “Files of type” to “All Files (*.*).” You should see your exclusion dictionary listed.

  • Select your exclusion dictionary and click OK.

  • Your exclusion dictionary will now be listed in the Custom Dictionaries dialog. When you want to add a word to it, you can select it, choose Modify…, and add words as required.

Word 2007 and above

Before you try to use an exclusion dictionary in Word 2007, 2010, or 2013, you might want to read this blog post from Microsoft's Natural Language Group, which explains why the contextual spell checking feature may make the exclusion dictionary unnecessary. If you still want to pursue it, however, this section will tell you. You may want to read the material above for general principles, but in Word 2007 and above 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  Windows logo on it).

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

  • Windows Vista/Windows 7/8/10/11

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

  •  If the menu bar is not displayed, display it by pressing Alt. On the menu bar, click Organize, then Folder and Search Options. (Tip: You can keep the menu bar visible by choosing Organize | Layout and checking the Menus option.)

  •  Click the View tab of the dialog.

  •  In the Files and Folders section, under Hidden files and folders, click the button for “Show hidden files and folders.”

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 or Microsoft Windows XP
    C:Documents and Settings\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\UProof

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

  •  On the menu bar, click Tools, then Folder Options.

  •  Click the View tab of the Folder Options dialog.

  •  In the Files and Folders section, under Hidden files and folders, click the button for “Show hidden files and folders.”

  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.

  • The Language Code is a two-letter code such as EN for English or FR for French.

  • The Language LCID (Locale ID) is a four-digit numeric code. You can find a very complete list of these codes here, but this chart does not include the Language Codes. The chart here is not as complete but does include the Language Codes. For a sortable list that includes all these values, see here. In all instances, the last four digits of the hex value (not the decimal value) are what you want.

  •  As examples, here are the presumed exclusion dictionary names for the various flavors of English (I don’t guarantee that they all exist):
    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
    ExcludeDictionaryEN4809.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

  •  As you can see, there is much more granularity of language differentiation in the exclusion dictionaries in Word 2007 and 2010 than in previous versions (where a single dictionary was used for U.S., U.K., and Canadian English, for example). Note also that the file uses the “dictionary” suffix .lex rather than .exc as in previous versions.

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.

Note: In order to open a *.lex file in Notepad or WordPad, you may have to negotiate the mysteries of file type associations. In Windows XP, if you right-click on, say, ExcludeDictionaryEN0409.lex, then Open With, you may be offered Notepad or WordPad as an option. If not, you can use Choose Program and get a list in which you can scroll down to the desired one. In Windows 7 (and probably Vista as well), you instead get the dialog shown below:

If you select the radio button for "Select a program from a list of installed programs," then you will get a modest list of applications from which you can choose Notepad or WordPad. If you leave the box checked (as it is by default) for "Always use the selected program to open this type of file," then the next time you want to open the exclude dictionary, you can just double-click on it.

Fortunately, in Windows 10 and 11, Notepad is offered by default.

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 and above don’t allow you to open and edit the exclusion dictionary through the Custom Dictionaries dialog. You get this terse 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 (Word 2007) or on the File tab (Word 2010 and above).

Important Note: Don't forget that, after you have edited the exclusion dictionary, you must restart Word before changes will take effect.

This article copyright © 2000, 2002, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2023 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.