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How to Superscript and Subscript (Word, Excel and PowerPoint)

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There are a variety of ways different ways to create superscripts and subscripts in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

  • 1
    Your Ribbon Guide commands (Microsoft Word only)
  • 2
    Your keyboard shortcuts
  • 3
    Your Font dialog box (w/ bonus shortcuts discussed below)

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

But first off, just so that we are crystal clear on terminology:

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+
  • 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

    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) a subscripts without using the insert equation feature (another way to create subscripts and complex mathematical equations).

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

    • 1
      Select the 2
    • 2
      Hit Ctrl + =

    To remove a subscript, simply select the subscript (2 in this case) and hit the Ctrl + = shortcut again to remove it

    To subscript in Excel with shortcuts, you need to use a combination of keyboard shortcuts on a PC.

    • 1
      Select your text
    • 2
      Hit Ctrl + 1 for the Format Cells dialog box
    • 3
      Hit Alt + B for Subscript
    • 4
      Hit Enter

    Superscript shortcut

    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 without using the insert equation commands (another way to create superscripts in your documents).

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

    • 1
      Select the 2
    • 2
      Hit Ctrl + Shift + =

    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.

    To superscript in Excel with shortcuts, you need to use a combination of keyboard shortcuts:

    • 1
      Select the text you want to superscript in Excel
    • 2
      Hit Ctrl + 1 to open the Format Cells dialog box
    • 3
      Hit Alt + E to Superscript
    • 4
      Hit Enter

    How to superscript and subscript in Word

    Besides the two keyboard shortcuts mentioned above, there are 2 additional ways to quickly create superscripts and subscripts in Word.

    #1: Use the superscript and subscript commands in your Ribbon:

    • 1
      Select your text
    • 2
      Click the superscript or subscript command in your Ribbon

    While this is a super fast way to create these text effects, if you navigate through the Font Dialog box, you get a bunch of other additional options (discussed below).

    #2: Use the Font dialog box to get at the superscript and subscript commands in Word:

    • 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

    One reason why the Font Dialog box is better than the standard keyboard shortcuts above, is that it gives you additional text effect and formatting options.

    Instead of using the keyboard shortcut to open the Font Dialog box, you can always open it by clicking the diagonal facing arrow in the Font Group on your Ribbon as pictured above..

    To remove a superscript or subscript in Word, simply select the text and re-apply the subscript or superscript (or unselect that text effect in the Font Dialog box)

    To learn how to use your keyboard shortcuts to create the strikethrough effect in Word, see: Strikethrough Shortcuts (Word, Excel and PowerPoint)

    How to superscript and subscript in PowerPoint

    Besides the two keyboard shortcuts mentioned above, you can use your Font Dialog to create subscripts and superscripts in PowerPoint.

    #1: To use the font dialog box to get at the superscript and subscript commands:

    • 1
      Select the text you want to superscript or subscript
    • 2
      Hit Ctrl + T to open the Font Dialog box in PowerPoint
    • 3
      Select superscript or subscript
    • 4
      Click OK

    Instead of using the Ctrl + T keyboard shortcut to open the Font Dialog box, you can always open it by clicking the diagonal facing arrow in the Font Group in your PowerPoint Ribbon.

    To remove a superscript or subscript, simply select the text and re-apply your subscript or superscript formatting (or unselect that text effect in the Font Dialog box)

    To learn how to use your keyboard shortcuts to create the strikethrough and other text effects in PowerPoint on a PC, see: Strikethrough Shortcuts (Word, Excel and PowerPoint)

    Superscript Shortcut in PowerPoint

    To see see the PowerPoint subscript and superscript shortcuts in action (including the Font Dialog box shortcut) see the short how to video below.

    One other thing you can do with superscripts and subscripts in PowerPoint is to adjust the offset in the Font dialog box as pictured below.

    How to superscript and subscript in Excel

    The only way to create a superscript and subscript in Excel outside of the mathematical equations tools, is through the Format Cells dialog box pictured below.

    #1: To use the Format Cells dialog box to get at the superscript and subscript commands:

    • 1
      Select the text inside the cell you want to subscript or superscript
    • 2
      Hit Ctrl 1 to open the Font Dialog box
    • 3
      Make sure you are on the Font tab
    • 4
      Select superscript or subscript
    • 5
      Click OK

    Special Note: In Excel your superscript and subscript formatting will not show in the formula bar in your Ribbon (as pictured below). It will will only show up in the cell where the formatting has been applied.

    If you don’t want to memorize the format cells shortcut, you can always open the Font Dialog box by clicking the downward facing arrow in font group in your Excel Ribbon (pictured below).

    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).

    To learn how to use your keyboard shortcuts to create the strikethrough and other text effects in Excel on a PC, see: Strikethrough Shortcuts (Word, Excel and PowerPoint)

    What’s next?

    Updated on January 29, 2019

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