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Word: Create a custom dictionary populated with thousands of terms

November 30, 2018

There are plenty of websites that tell you how to create a custom dictionary in Microsoft Word. But most assume you only have a few words to add to that dictionary. But what if you have thousands? Doing it one word at a time using the usual methods is painfully slow and not ergonomically sound.

I had such a situation a few months ago, but neglected to write up what I did. I had 4000+ Latin and common species names I’d gathered from public lists that I wanted to add to a unique dictionary so that Word didn’t flag them as spelling errors, except if they really were spelling errors or if they were species I hadn’t included in my species dictionary. I wanted a special dictionary file that I could copy and use on other computers, and turn off if I no longer needed it, so I didn’t want these words added to my default dictionary.

The first thing was to find out where the dictionary files are stored. I use Word for Windows, so this information is for Windows. By default, the Office dictionary files (Office 2010 to 2016, at least) are stored in C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\UProof and have a *.dic file extension. (Note: Follow these instructions if you can’t see the AppData folder.)

Now, *.dic files are just text files with a different file extension. This means you can open them in a text editor (e.g. Notepad; I use EditPlus because it has a ‘sort’ option, but Notepad works fine). Once you’ve opened a *.dic file in a text editor, you can add, edit, or delete entries. Just make sure you save the file with the *.dic file extension, not *.txt.

Because *.dic files are just text files, you can also use a text editor to create a new dictionary file. However, I started with Word because I wanted to sort them and run a macro to check for duplicates. The main thing to remember is that each word MUST go on its own line. You cannot have two words on one line. So, in the case of Latin species names, I had to put each part of the name on a separate line — this is why I had to sort the list and look for and delete duplicates (there are more than 700 species of eucalyptus, for example). Once I’d done that I copied them into my text editor, and continued from step 3 below.

In essence:

  1. Open a text editor.
  2. Add your words, ONE only on each line. Press Enter after each word.
  3. Save the file with a DIC file extension (NOT txt).
  4. Save it to the UProof folder (C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\UProof).
  5. Open Word and go to Word Options > Proofing. (You need to tell Word there’s a new dictionary to check.)
  6. Click Custom Dictionaries.
  7. Click Add.
  8. Select your new dictionary file, then click Open.
  9. Select the check box for your new dictionary file so that Word knows to check it.
  10. Click OK.

That should be it!

[Links last checked November 2018]

4 comments

  1. Interesting article. Could I have a copy of your dictionary. Thanks.


  2. Thanks for this post about custom dictionaries, it’s a great tool to have!


  3. Hi Basil

    My dictionary is quite specialised, targeting only some of the plant and animal species from a specific region of Western Australia, so I doubt it would be much use to you. It also took a long while to compile, so if you did want a copy of it, I’d charge a fee. Email me if you want to continue this discussion (details on the About page)

    –Rhonda


  4. […] need them once you finish your document? Too many questions, and CyberText Newsletter features a great article that answers […]



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