Subscript and Superscript in Word

You can add text that appears smaller and slightly below (subscript) or above (superscript) your main text quite easily in Word. This kind of text is commonly used in mathematics (e.g. X2) and other technical fields (e.g. H2O), but can also be used for something as simple as a date or other ordinal number (e.g. 25th).

There are four ways to implement this in Word:

  • Automatic formatting
  • Ribbon buttons
  • Font dialog box
  • Keyboard shortcuts

Automatic Superscript

You’ve probably already seen this in Word. Type a date or ordinal value like 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 55th etc and Word will change the following letters (‘st’ ‘nd’, ‘rd’ or ‘th’) to superscript automatically.

This little bit of Word magic happens with an AutoFormat setting at File | Options | Proofing | AutoCorrect options | AutoFormat.

If you don’t want the superscript in individual cases, press Ctrl + Z (Undo).  The AutoFormatting is a separate ‘do’ in Word that is reversable, as you can see from the Undo list. 

If it’s a long time later and Undo isn’t available, select the number and text then press Ctrl + Space . That will remove the extra formatting.  Or the harder way is to select just the th’, nd’, st’ or ‘rd’ and uncheck the superscript button on the ribbon. 

Ribbon Buttons 

There are subscript and superscript buttons on the ribbon under Home | Font. Simply highlight the text that you want to turn into subscript or superscript, and click the appropriate button.  




Font Dialog Box 

Subscript and superscript can also be added via the Font dialog box. You may prefer to use this method if you want to make other formatting changes to the text as well, such as changing the font style, size or color.  

The Font dialog box is opened by: 

  • Clicking on the arrow at the bottom right corner of the Font group.  

  • Typing the keyboard shortcut Control + D.  

Then simply tick the subscript or superscript box, make any other changes you want to the font, and click OK.  

Keyboard Shortcuts 

You may prefer to use keyboard shortcuts if you want to make the change on the fly while typing. Before typing the sub/superscript text, type the appropriate keyboard shortcut, type the text that you want changed, and then type the shortcut again when you want to return to normal text.  

The keyboard shortcut for subscript (e.g. H2O) is Ctrl + = 

The keyboard shortcut for superscript (e.g. X2) is Ctrl + Shift + +  (above the equals sign) 

Equation Editor 

If youre making equations with super or sub scripts galore, use Word’s Equation Editor from Insert | Symbols | Equation … 


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