Subscripts and Superscripts are special text formatting that can be used to highlight specific information in a table, within mathematical equations, or within molecular formulas.
Microsoft Excel is used for many purposes across many industries, so it’s no wonder the need to add superscripts or subscripts arises quite frequently.
Thankfully it’s very easy to insert subscripts and superscripts in Excel and there are quite a few options for this.
This blog post will show you 11 easy ways to add subscripts and superscripts in Microsoft Excel.
Add Subscript or Superscript from the Format Cells Dialog
A lot of common formatting commands can be found in the Home tab in the Font, Alignment, or Number section.
Unfortunately, the Subscript and Superscript options are missing from these frequently used format options.
You can use either the subscript or superscript formats from the Format Cells menu.
Select any cell or range of cells that you want to apply the script format on.
Go to the Home tab and click on the launch icon in the lower right corner of the Font section to open the Format Cells menu.
You can also open the Format Cells menu using these two methods.
- Right click on the cell and choose Format Cells.
- Use the Ctrl + 1 keyboard shortcut.
This will open up the Format Cells menu. Go to the Font tab and check either of the Superscript or Subscript options to format your text.
Note: You can’t check both the subscript and superscript options at the same time. These formats are mutually exclusive for the same piece of text.
Here you can see the results of applying the subscript or superscript format to a cell as compared to regular text.
Add Subscript or Superscript to Part of the Text
I just showed you how to apply the subscript or superscript format to the entire contents of a cell. But it’s usually the case that you’ll only want a part of your text to have superscripts or subscripts.
Just think of a math equation or molecular formula. These will only use scripts at certain places.
The good news is, it’s possible to apply the format to only part of a given text.
Click into the formula bar or press the F2 key to enter edit mode on a cell that contains the text to partially format.
Highlight the part of the text to format, then open the Format Cells menu with one of the following options.
- Use the Ctrl + 1 keyboard shortcut.
- Click on the Launch icon found in the Font section of the Home tab.
- Right click and choose Format Cells from the menu options.
Once the Format Cells menu is open, go to the Font tab and check one of the Superscript or Subscript options.
Unfortunately, you will need to repeat these steps if you want to apply the format to multiple parts of your text as you can’t highlight multiple parts of your text while in edit mode.
Here you can see a few examples of the possible format output when combining subscript and superscripts to multiple parts of the text.
This can make mathematical equations and molecular formulas much easier to read!
Add Subscript or Superscript with a Keyboard Shortcut
The quickest way to perform any action in Excel is certainly by using a keyboard shortcut when it’s available.
Luckily the subscript or superscript format can be applied by combining two keyboard shortcuts in succession.
There is a keyboard shortcut that will open the Format Cells menu with the Font tab active. From here, you can use the accelerator keys to check the subscript or superscript options.
Press the Ctrl + Shift + F keys to open the Format Cells menu. The Font tab is active!
In the effects section, you will notice the Superscript and Subscript options have a single letter underlined. This indicates the accelerator key which can be used to activate the option.
Hold the Alt key then press E on your keyboard to check the Superscript option.
Similarly, you can hold the Alt key and then press B on your keyboard to check the Subscript option.
With your chosen effect option checked, you can then press the Enter key to close the Format Cells menu and the format will be applied.
This is a much quicker method when applying these formats to multiple parts of your text!
Add Subscript or Superscript from the Quick Access Toolbar
If you find yourself using this format option quite a lot, then you might consider adding them to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).
This way, they will always be prominently available and ready to use with a single click.
Right-click on the QAT and choose the Customize Quick Access Toolbar option from the menu.
This will open up the Excel Options menu and allow you to add commands to your QAT.
Scroll down the list of commands and select Superscript or Subscript. Click on the Add button to add this to your QAT. Then press the OK button to close the Excel Options menu.
Now the commands will appear in your QAT ready to use!
Add Subscript or Superscript with Symbols
The previous methods have shown you how to format the text as a subscript or superscript.
Formatting does not change the value, only the appearance of the value. Any two cells formatted differently but that contain the same value are considered equal to Excel.
There is another method that relies on using special characters for subscripts and superscripts instead of formatting.
The character choice is limited, but all the numbers and a few symbols are available.
You can insert any of the available script characters by going to the Insert tab and selecting the Symbol command.
This will open up the Symbols menu when you can select and insert many different characters.
- Select the Symbols tab.
- Choose normal text from the Font dropdown list.
- Choose Superscripts and Subscripts from the Subset dropdown list.
- Click on any of the script characters and they will be added into the active cell. You can click on multiple characters and each will be added in sequence.
- Press the Insert button to close the Symbols menu.
Each of the selected characters will appear in your cell.
Add Subscript or Superscript with a Keyboard Shortcut
Each character seen in the Symbols menu has a unique keyboard sequence which will allow you to insert the character into Excel without using the Symbols menu.
This can be a quick way to insert your desired character without clicking through the symbols menu.
To insert any of the characters, hold the Alt key then type out the code in sequence from the numbers keypad of your keyboard.
For example, to insert the ³ symbol, hold the Alt key then press 0 1 7 9 in sequence on your number pad, then release the Alt key.
8304, ⁰, 0185, ¹, 0178, ², 0179, ³, 8308, ⁴, 8309, ⁵, 8310, ⁶, 8311, ⁷, 8312, ⁸, 8313, ⁹, 8314, ⁺, 8315, ⁻, 8316, ⁼, 8317, ⁽, 8318, ⁾, 8305, ⁱ, 8319, ⁿ, 8320, ₀, 8321, ₁, 8322, ₂, 8323, ₃, 8324, ₄, 8325, ₅, 8326, ₆, 8327, ₇, 8328, ₈, 8329, ₉, 8330, ₊, 8331, ₋, 8332, ₌, 8333, ₍, 8334, ₎, 8336, ₐ, 8337, ₑ, 8338, ₒ, 8339, ₓ, 8340, ₔ
Above is a comma-separated list of all the number sequences that will produce a script character. Each number is followed by its character.
Note: This will only work using a number pad on your keyboard and does not work from the number row.
Add Subscript or Superscript with Copy and Paste
The symbols menu and the associate keyboard shortcut for each character are great ways to get script characters you want, but it might be easier to copy and paste from another source as needed.
Above are all the available subscript characters. You can copy and paste any of them into Excel.
Above are all the available superscript characters that you can copy and paste into Excel.
Add Subscript or Superscript with the CHAR Function
The CHAR function is another potential method you can use to generate script characters in Excel.
The CHAR function takes a number between 1 and 255 and returns the corresponding ASCII character.
You can use this function to return 3 of the superscript characters available.
= CHAR ( 185 )
For example, the above formula will produce ¹ as a superscript.
Similarly, you can pass 178 and 179 into the CHAR function to return ² and ³ respectively.
Add Subscript or Superscript with the UNICHAR Function
With the CHAR function, it is only possible to return 3 different superscripts and no subscripts.
There is a more useful function that can return any of the Unicode script characters.
The UNICHAR function takes an integer number and returns the associated Unicode character.
= UNICHAR ( 8304 )
For example, the above formula will return the ⁰ superscript character.
8304, ⁰, 185, ¹, 178, ², 179, ³, 8308, ⁴, 8309, ⁵, 8310, ⁶, 8311, ⁷, 8312, ⁸, 8313, ⁹, 8314, ⁺, 8315, ⁻, 8316, ⁼, 8317, ⁽, 8318, ⁾, 8305, ⁱ, 8319, ⁿ, 8320, ₀, 8321, ₁, 8322, ₂, 8323, ₃, 8324, ₄, 8325, ₅, 8326, ₆, 8327, ₇, 8328, ₈, 8329, ₉, 8330, ₊, 8331, ₋, 8332, ₌, 8333, ₍, 8334, ₎, 8336, ₐ, 8337, ₑ, 8338, ₒ, 8339, ₓ, 8340, ₔ
Above is the full list of codes that will produce a script character followed by the character it returns when passed into the UNICHAR function.
Note: These are the same codes as mentioned in the section on inserting subscripts and superscripts with a keyboard shortcut.
Add Subscript or Superscript with the Equation Editor
There is another method for adding subscripts and superscripts that might be suitable.
This feature allows you to create equations with proper mathematical notation, including both subscripts and superscripts options.
The downside is this doesn’t create an equation inside a cell. It will create an equation that floats above the grid, similar to a shape or image.
To insert an equation, follow these steps.
Go to the Insert tab and click on the Equation command.
This will place an equation input box above the grid. When this is selected, you will see an Equation tab that appears in the ribbon.
- Select the equation input box.
- Go to the Equation tab.
- Click on the Script option.
- Choose the type of script to insert. You can choose from Superscript, Subscript, or even both at the same time.
This creates a template in the equation which you can then fill in with the required text. You can even add equation elements inside these to create subscripts on a superscript or any other combination.
Add Subscript or Superscript with the Ink Equations
Working with equations to get your desired output can be tricky at best.
But there is a feature that makes this as easy as writing the equation on paper! This is Ink Equations. It’s a feature that will translate your handwriting into an equation.
Go to the Draw tab and click on the Ink to Math command in the Convert section.
This will open up the Math Input Control dialog box where you can draw your equation.
As you draw inside the input box, Excel will convert it and show a preview of the equation above the drawing.
There are three handy options for when you mess up the drawing or Excel gets the conversion wrong.
- You can Erase any part of the drawing and re-draw it.
- You can Select and Correct any part of the drawing. This will gives you the ability to change what it was converted to.
- You can Clear the entire drawing and start over.
When you are satisfied with the conversion in the preview, press the Insert button and the equation will be inserted above the grid.
Once the equation has been created and inserted using the Ink to Math command, you can select it and further edit it using the Equation tab in the ribbon.
This is usually a much quicker method for building complex equations, especially if you have a touch screen device.
Add Subscript or Superscript with VBA
After you add the subscript and superscript commands to the Quick Access Toolbar, it becomes a lot easier to format multiple parts of a string.
You will only need to highlight each part then click on the command in the QAT.
But imagine you have a long list of molecular formulas and you need to format all the numbers as subscripts. This could still be quite time consuming.
Is there a way to automate this?
Yes, you can use VBA to format any numeric substrings!
Press Alt + F11 to open the visual basic editor. Go to the Insert tab and select Module, then paste the following code into the editor.
Dim myRange As Range
Dim currCell As Range
Dim currString As String
Dim currChar As String
Dim i As Long
Set myRange = Selection
Application.ScreenUpdating = False
For Each currCell In myRange
currString = currCell.Value
For i = 1 To Len(currString)
currChar = Mid(currString, i, 1)
If currChar >= "0" And currChar <= "9" Then
currCell.Characters(i, 1).Font.Subscript = True
Application.ScreenUpdating = True
The above code will loop through the cells in the active range. It then loops through each character of the text in each cell and formats it as a subscript if the character is a number.
currCell.Characters(i, 1).Font.Superscript = True
You can use the same code to format the numbers with superscripts. Just replace the bolded part of the code with the above.
Now all you need to do is select a range of values in which you want to format numbers as scripts and run the macro. Press Alt + F8 to open the Macro menu then select the macro and press the Run button
This can be an amazing time saver as you no longer need to highlight each number and manually apply a script format.
There are many useful and creative ways you can use to add subscripts or superscripts into your Excel spreadsheets.
You can create subscripts and superscripts by applying format, inserting special characters, or creating math equations.
The best way for you will depend on your needs. If you only need the appearance of scripts in your data, then formatting will be the best choice. Otherwise, using a special character will be a suitable choice.
Formatting parts of your text as subscripts or superscripts can become tedious, but you can even automate this with VBA.
Have you used any of these methods? Let me know in the comments which of these options has been the most helpful for you!