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How to Use Superscript or Subscript in Word (/w Shortcuts!)

If you’re a student in university or you work in a field where you create complex documents, you should know that you can use superscript and subscript in Microsoft Word.

Superscript and subscript are specially formatted text, numbers, or symbols. Both are approximately half the size of the regular text in your document. Superscript is positioned higher than the normal text in a given sentence or equation, while subscript is lower.

Superscript is frequently used in mathematical equations, scientific discussion, and complex documents of all kinds in the form of footnotes or endnotes.

The following example shows an equation than incorporates superscript to display an exponent.

4 + 32 = 13

Subscript isn’t as common, but it is used in chemistry. The well-known formula for water is H20. Notice that the 2 is lower than the rest of the text.

In this article, we’ll explore 3 ways to format text, numbers, or symbols using superscript and subscript in Microsoft Word. If you prefer Google Docs, check out this article on how to use superscript or subscript in Google Docs.

Method #1: Apply or Remove Superscript and Subscript with the Ribbon

The instructions for formatting text with superscript and subscript are similar. To apply superscript or subscript formatting using buttons on the ribbon:

  1. Drag to select the text, number, or symbol you’d like to format.
  2. Click the Superscript or Subscript button on the ribbon in the Home > Font group.

In this screenshot (below), I dragged to select the number 2 before clicking the Superscript button on the ribbon.

The Superscript button selected in the Font group.

To remove superscript or subscript using buttons on the ribbon:

  1. Drag to select the text, number, or symbol formatted with superscript or subscript.
  2. Click the Superscript or Subscript button on the ribbon in the Home > Font group.
  3. The formatting is removed.

Method #2: Apply or Remove Superscript and Subscript with the Font Dialog Box

Superscript and subscript are font attributes. You can apply superscript or subscript formatting using the Font dialog box in Microsoft Word. Here’s how:

  1. Drag to select the text, number, or symbol you’d like to format.
  2. Click the dialog box launcher in the lower right corner of the Font group (or press Ctrl + D).
    The Font dialog box appears.
  3. Click to select the Superscript or Subscript checkbox then click OK.

If you’re not familiar with the term dialog box launcher, this screen capture shows where it is located and what the control looks like.

The dialog box launcher selected in the Font group.

This screen capture shows the Font dialog box with the Superscript checkbox selected.

Superscript selected in the Font dialog box

To remove superscript or subscript formatting:

  1. Drag to select the text, number, or symbol that has been formatted with superscript or subscript.
  2. Click the dialog box launcher in the lower right corner of the Font group (or press CtrlD).
    The Font dialog box appears.
  3. Click to clear the Superscript or Subscript checkbox, then click OK.

Method #3: Apply or Remove Superscript and Subscript using Keyboard Shortcuts

I’ve saved the most efficient shortcut for last… everyone loves keyboard shortcuts!

To apply (or remove) superscript formatting from text, numbers, or symbols press Ctrl + Shift + equal sign (=). To apply (or remove) subscript formatting from text, numbers, or symbols press Ctrl + equal sign (=).

To apply superscript or subscript formatting using a keyboard shortcut:

  1. Drag to select the text, number, or symbol you’d like to format.
  2. Press Ctrl + Shift + = to apply superscript formatting or press Ctrl + = to apply subscript formatting.

To remove superscript or subscript formatting, just use the same keyboard shortcuts.

  1. Drag to select the text, number, or symbol that has been formatted with superscript or subscript.
  2. Press Ctrl + Shift + = to remove the superscript formatting or press Ctrl + = to remove the subscript formatting.

Advice on Using Superscript and Subscript Formatting

All 3 of the methods covered in this article accomplish the same thing. They allow you to easily apply or remove superscript or subscript formatting in your documents.

Use the method that you find most intuitive. The technique you use most often will become second nature and will ultimately save you a ton of time!

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive approach to learning Word, check out our Microsoft Word courses.

By Michael Belfry

Working as a full-time training consultant, Michael provides Microsoft Office courses to government and private sector clients across Canada.