Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Editing Custom Dictionaries.

Editing Custom Dictionaries

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 8, 2017)

As you use the spell-checking capabilities of Word, you undoubtedly have added words to your custom dictionary. Normally you do this when you run across a word that the main dictionary does not understand, but which you know is correct. When you click on the Add button in the spell-check dialog box, the word is added to your custom dictionary.

You can edit the custom dictionary by following these steps in Word 2003:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Spelling & Grammar tab is displayed.
  3. Click on the Custom Dictionaries button. Word displays the Custom Dictionaries dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Custom Dictionaries dialog box.

  5. In the list of dictionaries, select the one you want to edit.
  6. Click on the Modify button. Word displays a dialog box showing the words in the dictionary. (See Figure 2.)
  7. Figure 2. Editing a custom dictionary.

  8. To add words, enter a word at the top of the dialog box and click Add.
  9. To delete words, select the word in the list, then click Delete.
  10. Close all the open dialog boxes when you are done editing.

If you are using an older version of Word, then these steps will do:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Spelling & Grammar tab is displayed.
  3. Click on the Dictionaries button.
  4. In the list of dictionaries, select the one you want to edit.
  5. Click on the Edit button. The dictionary is opened, as a document, and you can make changes to it.
  6. Close the dictionary document when you are through editing it.

Regardless of the version of Word you are using, it is interesting to note that custom dictionaries are simply text files. This means you can also edit them by using a different text editor, such as Notepad. In order to find the dictionaries, simply look in the directory where the custom dictionaries are stored. (You can figure out where this is by carefully examining the dialog boxes displayed in the above steps.) The dictionaries are nothing but a list of words that the spell-check should consider as acceptable. You can add words to the dictionary as needed, or delete words that never should have been added in the first place.

Note that when you edit a custom dictionary in Word 97 or Word 2000, automatic spell-checking is turned off. In order to again enable automatic spell-checking, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. This displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Spelling & Grammar tab is displayed.
  3. Make sure the Check Spelling as You Type check box is selected.
  4. Click on OK to close the Options dialog box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1038) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Editing Custom Dictionaries.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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