Recently, I had to review a bunch of proposals. In reading these, I saw a number of instances where the wrong word was used. This wasn’t a case of word choice, but a typo that a spell checker didn’t flag. People had omitted letters or transposed characters. Think of people using “manger” instead of “manager”. These are tough errors to find as we tend to skim over these when proofing work. One way to solve these issues is to use an exclude dictionary file in Microsoft Word.
Microsoft Word has three types of dictionary files.
- Main – Large default dictionary for your language.
- Custom – When you click Add during a spell check, that word is added to the default custom dictionary. You can also buy industry-specific custom dictionaries.
- Exclude – Exception file of words, which prompts the spell checker. These entries override the main dictionary.
What to Include in an Exclude Dictionary
I think there are two word groups that go into this file. The first group includes words that you use, and if misspelled, could create an embarrassing scenario. These include words where a letter has been dropped or you pressed the wrong key that results in an entirely different word. Here are some I spotted:
- pubic (meant public)
- parent (meant patent)
- suing (meant using)
The second group of words is situational. For example, writers who need to switch between British and American spelling based on the client.
Unlike the main dictionary, the words you place in this exclude file prompt the Microsoft Word spellchecker. The idea is you’ll look at the flagged word, put it in context, and catch a potential mistake.
Finding the Word Exclusion Dictionary
- Open Windows File Manager.
- Find your Microsoft UProof folder. In my case it’s located at: C:\Users\Anne\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\UProof\
- You should see a set of files with a .lex file extension.
- Look at the 2 uppercase letters following ExcludeDictionary. These are language codes such as EN, ES, FR, etc.
Editing the Exclusion File
You’re now ready to add words to the exclusion dictionary. There are a few rules.
- You can’t have spaces. No phrases are allowed.
- You can’t have a word exceed 64 letters.
- You need to edit the file using a text editor. I’ve used the free text editor from Microsoft called VS Code.
- Open your.lex file for your language in a text editor. I’ve selected the EN file for English.
- Add one word per line. Each line should be a word you want Microsoft Word to add a squiggly line underneath to catch your attention.
- Save the file.
- Start Microsoft Word and do a test paragraph with your exclusion words.
In the list above you can see where I’ve used words that have different spellings. In some documents, I need to use US spelling, but not others. By adding these words, I’m telling Microsoft Word to flag them so I am prompted to think about the context.
Before I edited the exclusion dictionary, I would just have the red squiggly line under one version of the word.
You can see above that Microsoft Word flagged the Britsh version, but left the American version alone. However, after adding the variations to my exclusion list, I see the desired red squiggly lines.
One item I encountered was timing. This exclusion dictionary works going forward on new content. However, it would not work on existing documents.