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By default, Office 2003 offers a built-in custom dictionary that lets you store terms and names that would otherwise get flagged as unrecognized during a spell check. Word and PowerPoint offer background spell-checking, so all you have to do is right-click on a flagged term (wavy red line) and choose Add To Dictionary from the shortcut menu. Excel and Outlook require you to run the spell checker yourself. When they encounter an unrecognized term, they’ll open the Spelling dialog box and give you the option to add the term to the custom dictionary. Either way, the term will land in Custom.dic, the default custom dictionary file, and all the applications will ignore the term when they come across it again.

Sometimes, though, you may accidentally add a misspelled term to the custom dictionary. For instance, you might unwittingly mistype a company name or some new bit of jargon and add it to the dictionary before you catch your mistake. A dictionary with misspellings in it is somewhat counterproductive, so it’s a good idea to go in and remove them when they creep in. Although Excel and PowerPoint 2003 let you add words to the shared dictionary, you have to use Word (or Outlook) to modify the dictionary file. Here are the steps for doing this in Word:

  1. Go to Tools | Options, click on the Spelling & Grammar tab, and click the Custom Dictionaries button. (Figure A).

Figure A

  1. In the Custom Dictionaries dialog box (Figure B), make sure CUSTOM.DIC (default) is selected in the Dictionary List and click Modify.

Figure B

  1. When the CUSTOM.DIC dialog box opens (Figure C), locate the misspelled word in the Dictionary list box, select it, and click Delete.

Figure C

  1. To replace the term with the correct version, just type it in the Word text box and click Add (Figure D). When you’re finished, exit all dialog boxes by clicking OK.

Figure D

Outlook 2003

If you want to modify the custom dictionary using Outlook, just choose Options from the main Tools menu and click the Spelling tab, as shown in Figure E. Under Edit Custom Dictionary, click Edit. Outlook will then open the custom dictionary as a text file (Figure F).

Figure E

Figure F

What about Office 2007?

The Office 2007 apps all support editing the custom dictionary. And Outlook 2007 (which now offers background spell-checking in messages) includes an option to access the custom dictionary file in a slightly more elegant way than via text file.

  1. In all the apps, you just click the Office button and choose the Options command at the bottom of the menu.
  2. Choose Proofing from the pane of categories on the left (Figure G).

Figure G

  1. Click Custom Dictionaries to open the dialog box shown in Figure H.

Figure H

  1. Click Edit Word List to open the CUSTOM.DIC dialog box (Figure I).

Figure I

From there, it works the same as Office 2003 — except that there’s a Delete All option now. I guess that’s in case you go on a bender and manage to fill up the entire dictionary file with misspelled words.