Articles by: azmanam

Chemistry Dictionary for Word Processors V3.0


Download the Chemistry Dictionary(V3.0) here


1/13/12: Welcome J. Chem. Educ. readers! After you download the dictionary, feel free to browse to the front page and have a look around. You may also be interested in our Reagent Table Calculator Widgets. 🙂

1/19/11: Reader Catie has forwarded a biology/medical dictionary that is also free and fully compatible with the chemistry dictionary or other custom dictionaries.  Read about it and download it here.

Original December 17, 2008, post follows:

As anyone who’s written a paper for chemistry class or journal publication knows, spelling “errors” quickly become so numerous that you just ignore them. They’re not really errors, of course, just technical words that Microsoft’s standard dictionary doesn’t include. This is problematic for at least two reasons. One, I tend to gloss over the many, many squiggly red lines and therefore not notice actual spelling errors that have been made. Two, the standard spell checker cannot differentiate between correctly-spelled technical words and misspelled technical words. Thus, all technical words come back as misspelled whether or not they actually are misspelled.

Around this time last year (end of 2007), I was looking for a solution to this problem. I wanted to download a free “custom dictionary” to upload to my word processor to recognize all the words that were correctly spelled, but not recognized by the standard dictionary. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find one. I found several scientific spell check programs, but they are all for-pay versions. I wasn’t interested.

So I set out to create my own chemistry dictionary. I finished it up at the beginning of February (2008), and it was hosted at Sciencebase with thanks to David Bradley (read the post regarding the original release). The dictionary was relatively small, containing some 18,000 words. But it helped a lot.

Through David, I was introduced to Antony Williams from I met with him one afternoon in February, and he agreed to release his database of 1.3 million identifiers for me to integrate into the next upgrade. (Update: read Tony’s writeup)

It took me a while, but the upgrade is complete and ready for release.  Click here to download the zipped chemistry dictionary file (V3.0).  The 1.3 million identifiers were distilled down to around 102,000 additional words for the dictionary file (read more on that process here).  This upgrade bumps the dictionary from 18,000 words to ~104,000 words.

Administrivia: The dictionary is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.  The dictionary is compatible for Microsoft Office (Windows or Mac), and  Open Office (Windows or Linux).  The install file includes instructions for upgrading old versions and installing it for the first time.  The dictionary should be useful for all chemists.  However, I am an organic chemist.  Thus, the dictionary was created from an organic chemist’s mindset.  It will probably be most useful for organic chemists.

Now, I can’t guarantee that the dictionary is perfect. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, you can leave them in the comments or email me at chemdictionary – at – gmail – dot – com. If you notice a word not in the dictionary that you’d like to see added, you can enter below it in the form that Mitch made for me. (Thanks, Mitch) I’ll review it and consider it for the next upgrade.




  • Several people have emailed me saying they are experiencing some problems integrating the dictionary file with Microsoft Word on a Mac.  Here is a useful workaround:Open the dictionary file through Microsoft Word (open Word, then goto Open File and change the file type to All Files).  With the dictionary file open, select “Save As.”  One of the “File Type” options to which the file can be saved is a custom dictionary file.  Save the document as a dictionary file with a novel file name.  Then follow the instructions in the install file to add on this new dictionary file.
  • Two people have independently (and most kindly) formatted the dictionary file for integration into iWork for Macs (OS X only, I believe).  I don’t have a Mac, so I have no idea what that is.  But if two people went out of their way to reformat the dictionary file for it and sent the file to me unsolicited, then it must be good.  Here it is (zip file) (Update: The iWork file has been incorporated in to the standard download).  This does not replace the dictionary file for Microsoft Word on a Mac.  You will need to install both files if you use Microsoft Word and iWork.  If you have already created a custom dictionary for iWork, you will need to append this dictionary file to the end of your current custom dictionary.
  • Read the article I wrote for the inaugural issue of the ChemSpider Journal of Chemistry.




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By December 17, 2008 130 comments synthetic chemistry

Origin of Life Chemistry?

An interesting review was published in the Chem. Rev. ASAPs a few weeks ago (doi: 10.1021/cr078240l) concerning some of the possible chemistry at the beginning of life.  We all know life is sustained and perpetuated through the DNA/protein world which exists today.  An RNA world is thought to have pre-dated this DNA/protein world.  And the authors of this review contend that a carbohydrate polymer world probably existed before modulating into the RNA world which eventually gave way to today’s DNA world.

I rather like reading and pondering about life’s origins.  It’s really interesting to me as a synthetic organic chemist to consider how the complex array of life came to exist from simple building blocks, and how the building blocks we have today arose from the generally-accepted conditions of early Earth at the time life began.  Perhaps we’ve all heard of the famous Miller-Urey experiment which attempted to recreate those conditions.  Methane, ammonia and hydrogen were circulated over boiling water.  Electrodes were introduced to mimic lightning.  After a time, the composition of the mixture was analyzed, and a number of amino acids were detected.

But did that really recreate the conditions of early Earth?
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By November 18, 2008 15 comments synthetic chemistry

“Oh, and what do you study in grad school?”

Answering the question, “What are you studying in grad school?” is never an easy task. Especially if the person really cares what the answer is. If they don’t care, “Chemistry” is usually a sufficient answer, and we move on. I’ve come up with several stock answers that vaguely describe synthetic organic chemistry in somewhat easy-to-understand English for non-chemistry majors (First, I have to explain that ‘synthetic organic chemistry’ is not an oxymoron…)

But if the conversation really gets scintillating (that’s the term I’m going to use, at least), I get to try to explain concepts like flash column chromatography to non-chemists. Over time, I think I’ve formulated a fairly good explanation-by-analogy. I’ll lay it out below the jump. Let me know how I did – especially if you yourself are not completely familiar with column chromatography. What concepts related to your field have you had to explain to non-scientists?

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By October 29, 2008 11 comments synthetic chemistry