There are a variety of ways different ways to create Superscripts and Subscripts in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

  1. Ribbon guide commands (Microsoft Word only)
  2. Keyboard shortcuts
  3. The Font dialog box (w/ bonus shortcuts discussed below)

All of which are covered in detail for each program below, so you can choose which technique works best for you.

As you will see, the issues isn’t how to type a subscript or superscript. Instead, it’s how to turn the text you already have into the text effect format you want.

And just so that we are crystal clear on terminology, let’s look at the difference between the two.

Example of a superscript and a subscript

What is a Superscript?

A superscript is text formatting set above the normal baseline (as pictured above on the left) and is most frequently used in mathematical equations and chemical formulas.

  • A mathematical example is Einstein’s famous formula: E=mc2
  • A chemical example is the metallic barium ion written: Ba2+

What is a Subscript?

A subscript is text formatting set below the normal text baseline (as pictured above on the right) and is also often used in mathematical equations and chemical formulas.
  • A mathematical example is the variable: an
  • A chemical example is the chemical formula for water: H2O

Subscript shortcut (PC & Mac)

The Subscript shortcut is Ctrl + = on a PC and Ctrl + Cmd + + on a Mac.

This shortcut works in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint to quickly create (or remove) subscripts. That means that you don’t have to use the insert equation feature.

The subscript shortcut is Ctrl plus equal sign on a PC and Control plus Command plus the plus sign on a Mac

For example, to subscript 2 in a mathematical equation like this (X2), you’ll need to:

  1. Select the 2
  2. Hit Ctrl + = on your keyboard

To remove a subscript, simply select the subscript (2 in this case) and hit the Ctrl = shortcut again to remove it. This shortcut does not work in Excel, see the section on Excel below for an alternative.

To expand your knowledge and learn more shortcuts that save you time in PowerPoint, read our guide here.

Superscript shortcut (PC & Mac)

The superscript shortcut is Ctrl + Shift on a PC and Ctrl Cmd  on a Mac.

This shortcut works in Word and PowerPoint to quickly create (or remove) superscripts on the fly. That means you don’t have to use the insert equation commands.

For example, to superscript 2 in a mathematical equation like this (X2), you’ll need to:

  1. Select the 2
  2. Hit Ctrl + Shift + = on your keyboard

To remove the superscript after you have applied it, simply select it (in this case the 2) and hit the Ctrl Shift = shortcut a second time to remove it.

Word: How to Superscript and Subscript

Besides the two keyboard shortcuts mentioned above, there are 2 additional ways to create a Superscript and Subscript in Microsoft Word.

The superscript command is also the secret to type exponents in Word, as you will see below.

1. Use the Ribbon commands in Word

From the Home tab select either subscript or superscript
  1. Select the text in your Word document
  2. Navigate to the Home tab
  3. Click the Superscript or the Subscript command

While this is a super fast way to create these text effects, the Font dialog box gives you additional formatting options for making exponents and mathematical equations in Word, out side the Mathematical Equations tab.

Inside the Font dialog box select either the superscript or subscript command

Note: If you need help organizing your Word document so you can easily create a table of contents or convert your Word documents into PowerPoint slides, read our guide here.

2. Use the Font dialog box in Word

From the Home tab click the downward facing arrow in the Font group to open the Font dialog box
  1. Select the text you want to superscript or subscript
  2. Hit Ctrl + D to open the Font dialog box in Word
  3. Select Superscript or Subscript
  4. Click OK

Instead of using the keyboard shortcut to open the Font dialog box (Ctrl + D), you can always open it by clicking the diagonal facing arrow in the Font group on the Home tab in your Ribbon (picture above).

One reason why the Font dialog box is better than using your keyboard shortcuts is that it gives you additional formatting options for your text.

To remove a superscript or subscript in Word, simply select the text and re-apply the effect.

Note: If you want to learn how to cross out text in Microsoft Word using keyboard shortcuts, read our article here.

Excel: Superscript and Subscript

There are two different ways to get at the Format Cells dialog box in Excel to apply the superscript and subscript formatting.

But first, it is important to note that your superscript and subscript formatting in Excel only displays within the cells of your Excel spreadsheet. The formatting does not display in the formula tab as pictured below.

So when you do not see the formatting applied in your formula bar, you have done nothing wrong. The text formatting has still been properly applied if you follow the steps below.

Superscript and subscript formatting only displays within the cells of your Excel spreadsheet, not in the formula bar

1. Using the Format Cells dialog box shortcut

Hit control plus one to open the format cells dialog box in Excel
  1. Select the text you want to superscript or subscript
  2. Hit Ctrl + 1 to open the Format Cells dialog box
  3. Select the Superscript or Subscript command
  4. Click OK
Front the Font tab, put a check mark next to subscript or superscript

Another use of the Ctrl + 1 keyboard shortcut is when formatting your charts in Excel. Simply select a chart element that you want to format and hit Ctrl + 1 to open all of the relevant formatting options for your selection.

2. Font dialog box Ribbon command

If you don’t want to remember the Ctrl + 1 keyboard shortcut in Excel, you can alternatively access the Font or Format Cells dialog box by clicking the downward-facing arrow on the Home tab.

Simply open the dialog box, select either the Superscript or Subscript formatting and click OK.

From the Home tab click the downward facing arrow in the Font group to open the format cells dialog box

PowerPoint: Superscript and Subscript

Besides using the two keyboard shortcuts discussed at the top of this page, you can alternatively apply the Superscript and Subscript formatting using the Font dialog box in PowerPoint.

Hit control plus T shortcut to open the font dialog box in PowerPoint
  1. Select the text you want to superscript or subscript
  2. Hit Ctrl + T to open the Font dialog box in PowerPoint
  3. Select either the Superscript or Subscript commands
  4. Click OK

Instead of using the Ctrl + T shortcut to open the Font dialog box, you can click the diagonal facing arrow in the Font group on the Home tab.

From the Home tab in PowerPoint, click the downward facing arrow in the Font group on the Home tab to open the Font dialog box

Regardless of how you navigate to the Font dialog box, once it is open, simply select either the Superscript or Subscript formatting and click OK.

Inside the Font dialog box select the superscript or subscript formatting and click OK

In the Font dialog box, you can also adjust the Offset of your Superscript. The higher the value of your Offset, the higher your Superscript will sit in relation to your text.

Simply select how much you want for your Offset and then click OK.

Use the Font dialog box in PowerPoint to adjust the Offset of your Superscript

In the Font dialog box, you can also adjust the Offset of your Subscript. The lower the negative value, the lower your Subscript will sit below your text.

Simply select or input the Offset you want and then click OK.

Use the Font dialog box to adjust the offset of your Subscript in PowerPoint

Also note, inside the Font dialog box you can use your keyboard shortcuts to select or unselect the Superscript and Subscript commands (which you can see by the underlined letter in each).

Note: To learn how to use your keyboard shortcuts to create the strikethrough and other text effects in PowerPoint, see our guide here.

Conclusion

So those are all the different ways to create subscripts and superscripts in Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

If you need to add this type of formatting a lot, I recommend learning the relevant keyboard shortcuts to speed up your workflow. If not, you can always use the Font dialog box (or Format Cells dialog box in Excel) to quickly get at the superscript and subscript formatting.

Currently, you can only add an Offset to your superscripts and subscripts in PowerPoint.

If you enjoyed this tutorial and want to learn more about our online training courses and other free PowerPoint training resources, check us out here.

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