Inconsistent Adding of Words to a Custom Dictionary

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 10, 2014)

William wrote about a problem he was having adding certain words to his custom dictionary. Word inconsistently adds these words—including names and terms borrowed from other languages; some with accents—to the dictionary.

There are three potential causes of this problem. First, it is possible that your custom dictionary file is getting too large. This is unlikely, however, unless you are using Word 97. With this older version of Word there is a limit of 5,000 words in a dictionary and a maximum file size of 64K. If the size goes larger than that, Word ignores anything past the 64K limit. You should check, within Windows, the size of the file. If it is a size issue, your options are to either delete some words from the custom dictionary, or to start using a secondary custom dictionary file. This limitation does not apply to later versions of Word, where the file size and number of entries is essentially unlimited.

The second potential cause is more likely, however, given the fact that you are adding foreign-language words to custom dictionary. The custom dictionary is a plain-text file. Some foreign words cannot be properly represented in a plain-text file, and rely instead upon Unicode characters. When you add them to the dictionary, Word converts them to as close of an equivalent as it can, but the words are still not the same. When you later enter the same foreign word, it is marked as incorrect since that exact word—with its exact character coding—cannot be found in the dictionary. Unfortunately, there is no way around this problem in Word.

The third potential cause is related to where Word stores its custom dictionary. Under certain circumstances, Word could create the custom dictionary in the wrong folder of your system. This can lead to potential problems, particularly when it comes to sharing the dictionary with other Office applications. The problem only seems to occur if you specify a non-standard location for the dictionary in the Tools setting of the File Locations dialog box. You can find more information about this problem in this Knowledge Base article:

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1344) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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