An Outlook SNAFU that few people consider before it happens to them is the problem of correctly spelled words appearing in the wrong context. You might not want certain words of a sensitive nature (e.g., pubic, penis) to appear in your business correspondence, email messages, or Word documents. To prevent a potentially embarrassing situation, you can configure Outlook to highlight such terms when you or users in your organization compose messages. In some cases, these words will automatically be underlined by the grammar checking feature, but some inappropriate misspellings might not be underlined at all.

For example, the following sentence passes the spell checker, but the grammar checker identifies the problem:

“The penis mightier than the sword.”

In other cases, neither spell check nor grammar check recognizes an issue. For example, I frequently make the following typo:

“Can I get permission to the pubic folders?”

In business email correspondence, depending on the nature of the business of course, it’s probably rare to use the terms “penis” or “pubic.”

Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 uses Office Word 2007 for both rendering and composing email messages. Although not everyone has been happy with this change, it does let you use certain features from Word when you compose an email message. One of these features is granular control of the dictionaries used for spell checking. Word has a custom dictionary to which you can add words that you don’t want to show up as misspelled, including names. But you can also exclude words that Word considers spelled correctly so they show up as misspelled in your document. For Office 2007, Microsoft creates a separate exclusion file for each language installed. The exclusion file is in the format

ExcludeDictionary<Language_Code><Locale_ID>.lex

The Language Code is a two-letter code for the installed languages in Office 2007, such as EN for English, DE for German, and FR for French. The Locale ID is a hexadecimal code specifying the localized form of the language code, such as 0809 for United Kingdom. There’s a list of Locale IDs on MSDN, although this is not the official, complete list for Office.

On my Windows 7 system with Office 2007, I have English–United States and English–United Kingdom installed. The exclusion files are named

ExcludeDictionaryEN0409.lex
ExcludeDictionaryEN0809.lex

In Windows 7 the exclusion file(s) can be found in the following path:

C:\Users\<user_name>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\UProof

In Windows 2008 and Windows Vista the exclusion files are found here:

C:\Users\<user_name>\AppData\Microsoft\UProof

In Windows 2003 and Windows XP, the exclusion files are found here:

C:\Documents and Settings\<user_name>\Application Data\Microsoft\UProof

The exclusion files are text files that can be edited in any text editor, including Notepad. Simply add words that you want to show as misspelled and press enter after each term. Outlook must be restarted to capture any new additions to this file. Of course, this text file could be pushed out to clients through Group Policy, a logon script, or another enterprise application distribution mechanism. If you do distribute a common set of exclusions in this manner, it will overwrite any custom exclusions your users might have added.

Figure 1 shows two new email messages. The first was composed prior to adding the terms “penis” and “pubic” to the exclusion file. The second message was composed after adding those terms and restarting Outlook. Notice the red line under both terms, suggesting that they are misspelled. The red line warning might assist some people in ensuring the proper intent and accuracy of their email messages.