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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 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.

But first off, just so that we are crystal clear on terminology, let's look at the difference between the two.

Examples of superscript text and subscript text

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

    Subscript shortcut on a PC is control plus the equal sign. The subscript shortcut on a Mac is the control plus command plus plus sign keys

    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.

    Subscript 2 example:

    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

    For a list of our favorite PowerPoint shortcuts that will save you time like this, click here.

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

    1. Select your text
    2. ​On your keyboard hit Ctrl + 1 for the Format Cells dialog box
    3. Hit Alt + B for Subscript
    4. Then hit Enter

    Superscript shortcut

    The superscript shortcut on a PC is control plus shift plus the equal sign key on your keyboard. On a Mac it is control plus command plus the minus key on your keyboard.

    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.

    Superscript 2 example:

    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.

    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. ​On your keyboard hit Ctrl + 1 to open the Format Cells dialog box
    3. Hit Alt + E to Superscript
    4. ​Then hit Enter

    How to Superscript and Subscript in Word

    Besides the two keyboard shortcuts mentioned above, there are 2 additional ways to do this in Microsoft Word.

    Superscript and subscript commands in Word on the home tab

    Use the Ribbon commands in Word:

    1. Select your text in your document
    2. Click the Superscript or Subscript command in your Ribbon

    While this is a super fast way to create these text effects, the Font Dialog box gives you additional formatting options (discussed below).

    Font formatting options in the Font dialog box

    Use the Font dialog box 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, is it gives you additional formatting options.

    The downward facing arrow in the font group on the Home tab opens the font dialog box

    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 effect.

    If you want to learn the strikethrough text shortcuts in Word, see our post here.

    How to Superscript and Subscript in Excel

    The only way to create these text effects in Excel outside of the mathematical equations tools, is through the Format Cells dialog box.

    In Excel you can find your font formatting options on the Font tab in the Format Cells dialog boxthe Font tab

    Using the Format Cells dialog box in Excel:

    1. Select the text you want to superscript or subscript
    2. Hit Ctrl + 1 to open the Font dialog box 
    3. Select the Superscript or Subscript command
    4. Click OK

    Special Note: When you subscript in Excel, the formatting only displays in your cells. The formatting will not display in the formula tab below your Ribbon (as pictured below).

    Superscripts and subscripts will only be properly displayed within the cells of your spreadsheet, and not the formula box

    If you don’t want to memorize the Format Cells shortcut, you can open the Font dialog box by clicking the downward facing arrow in Font group in your Excel Ribbon (pictured below).

    Open the Font dialog box in Excel by clicking the downward facing arrow in the Font group on the Home tab

    How to Superscript and Subscript in PowerPoint

    Besides the two keyboard shortcuts mentioned above, you can use your Font dialog box to create these text effects in PowerPoint.

    The font formatting options available in the Font dialog box in PowerPoint the PowerPoint font dialog box

    Use 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
    To open the font dialog box in PowerPoint, click the downward facing arrow in the Font group on the Home tab

    Instead of using the Ctrl + T shortcut to open the Font Dialog box, you can click the diagonal facing arrow in the Font Group.

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

    To learn your strike through text shortcuts in PowerPoint, see our guide here.

    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.


    Examples of different Offsets applied to Superscript text in PowerPoint

    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.

    Examples of different Offsets applied to Subscript text 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).

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

    Conclusion

    As you can see, there are a variety of different ways to create subscripts and superscripts in Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

    The font dialog box gives you both the most options and allows you to use your Alt shortcut keys to fast-track the process.

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

    What’s next?

    Updated on July 8, 2019

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