Using Exclusion Dictionaries in Word for Mac 2016

Like (I suspect) many others, I use Microsoft Word for my academic writing and also for most of my note-taking. Microsoft’s rollout of Office 365 has recently led to my institution offering both students and staff the new versions of Word, Excel, and the like for free. I’ve recently started using these on my Mac.

When I write in Word, I don’t have Autocorrect running and instead rely on the red underlining of the as-you-type spellchecker to spot any mistakes. I also have a fairly extensive custom dictionary which has words I use a lot (‘Utilitarians’ is a favourite!) but which don’t appear in the main dictionary. What I’ve recently found annoying, however, is my tendency to make typos that are not misspelt words, but are obvious mistakes in the context of what I’m writing. My most frequent one is to write ‘fro’ instead of ‘for’.

What I thought I needed was some kind of reverse custom dictionary, where I could list words that are not misspellings, per se, but which I want Word to underline anyway to make checking easier. Fortunately there is a feature for this, called Exclusion Dictionaries, and even more fortunately it seems that, in Word for Mac 2016, getting it to work is a lot easier than it seems to have been in previous versions.

Here’s the gist:

1. First job is to call up ‘Spelling & Grammar’ in the Word Preferences (⌘ + ,) pane:

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2. Next is the ‘Dictionaries…’ button:

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3. In the ‘Custom Dictionaries’ pane that appears, click ‘New’:

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4. I’ve put my Exclusion Dictionary in the same folder as my Custom Dictionary, which is in ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/. Yours may be in a different place and, in fact, it doesn’t seem to matter where the new file actually goes. If your Library folder is hidden, remember to press ⌘ + Shift + . to reveal it in the Save dialog pane. It’s important to change the file format to Speller Exclude Dictionary (.dic).

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5. We’ve now created our custom Exclusion Dictionary. Hit ‘Edit’ to start adding words to your list. You’ll receive a notification stating that ‘Spell check will turn off’, just click OK as we’ll re-enable it in step 7.

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6. Here’s my new dictionary, to which I’ve added the word ‘fro’. You can enter other words to flag up on additional lines. Close and save when you’re done, after which you’ll be returned to the original document you were working on.

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7. In step 5, spell check was turned off in the process. We now need to turn it back on in the ‘Spelling & Grammar’ pane (as in step 1, to get to the Word Preferences pane we press ⌘ + ,):

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 12.44.46

8. And here is the Exclusion Dictionary in action, marking ‘fro’ as a typo in this document of notes I’m currently working on:

Hope this helps!