Superscripts are numbers, letters, or symbols that appear slightly above the surrounding text. Subscripts are letters, numbers, words, or phrases that appear slightly below the surrounding text. This tutorial shows how to insert superscripts and subscripts in Microsoft Word using three different tools:
Important Note: Superscripts can also be inserted using Word’s footnote and endnote tools. That method isn’t included in this tutorial because the superscripts created with those tools are dependent on their corresponding note (i.e., if you delete the note, the superscript is deleted, also). Visit “How to Insert Footnotes and Endnotes in Microsoft Word” for a full tutorial and real-time video demonstration.
The images below are from Word for Office 365, which is currently the same as Word 2019. The steps are the same in Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, and most previous versions of the software.
How to Use the Superscript and Subscript Buttons
The superscript and subscript buttons can be used on any number, letter, or symbol in your document.
1. Select the Home tab in the ribbon.
2. Place your cursor where you want to insert the superscript or subscript. Or, select the existing text that you want to format as a superscript or subscript.
3. Select the Superscript or Subscript button in the Font group. The button’s background will turn a darker gray than the surrounding ribbon when the formatting is turned on.
4. Type the text that should receive the superscript or subscript formatting. (This step is not necessary if you selected existing text during step 2.)
5. Select the Superscript or Subscript button again to turn off the formatting when you are finished (see figure 2). The button’s background will match the surrounding ribbon when the formatting is turned off.
6. Save your file to save your new superscript or subscript.
How to Use the Symbol Dialog Box to Insert Superscripts and Subscripts
The Symbol dialog box offers superscript versions of the numbers zero through nine and a small collection of subscripts mainly used in equations and formulas.
Important Note: Symbols are part of font files installed on your computer, so the symbols available to you will depend on the font you are using. However, all commonly used fonts (e.g., Ariel, Times New Roman, Helvetica) should include the symbols shown here using the Calibri font.
1. Place your cursor where you want to insert the superscript or subscript.
2. Select the Insert tab in the ribbon.
3. Select Symbol in the Symbols group.
4. Select More Symbols in the drop-down menu.
5. Ensure that you are viewing the Symbols tab in the Symbol dialog box.
6. Select normal text in the Font menu so that your superscript or subscript matches your current font.
7. Select Superscripts and Subscripts in the Subset drop-down menu.
8. Select the superscript or subscript you need from the menu.
9. Select the Insert button.
Pro Tip: You can move your cursor around the document and insert additional superscripts and subscripts while the Symbol dialog box is open.
10. Select the Close button to close the Symbol dialog box.
11. Save your file to save your new superscript or subscript.
A Word on Shortcut Keys
You may have noticed that the Symbol dialog box includes shortcut keys for superscripts and subscripts. Those shortcut keys differ from the keyboard shortcuts shown below and are not included in this tutorial because they have performed inconsistently in my own projects.
How to Use Keyboard Shortcuts to Insert Superscripts and Subscripts
Windows users can use the following keyboard shortcuts to apply superscript or subscript formatting to any number, letter, or symbol in your document.
1. Place your cursor where you want to insert the superscript or subscript. Or, select the existing text that you want to format as a superscript or subscript.
2. Type the keyboard shortcut:
Superscript: Ctrl + Shift + +
(Control, Shift, and the plus sign)
Subscript: Crtl + =
(Control and the equal sign)
Important Note: Use the plus sign and the equal sign in the main keyboard because their equivalents in the number pad won’t work.
3. Type the text that should receive the superscript or subscript formatting. (This step is not necessary if you selected existing text during step 1.)
4. Retype the keyboard shortcut to turn off the formatting when you are finished.
5. Save your file to save your new superscript or subscript.
Further Reading: Three Ways to Insert Currency Symbols in Microsoft Word