by Svetlana Cheusheva, updated on

*This tutorial will teach you a few quick ways to insert superscript and subscript in Excel, both for text values and numbers.*

Microsoft Office users sometimes wonder why a particular feature is present in one Office application and absent in another. So is the case with superscript and subscript formats - available on the Word ribbon, they are nowhere to be found in Excel. Please remember, Microsoft Word is all about text and Excel is about numbers, it can't do all Word tricks. However, it does have a lot of tricks of its own.

**Superscript** is a small letter or number typed above the baseline. If there is any preceding text in a cell, superscript is attached to the top of the regular sized characters.

For example, you can use superscript to write square units like m^{2} or inch^{2}, ordinal numbers such as 1^{st}, 2^{nd}, or 3^{rd}, or exponents in math such as 2^{3} or 5^{2}.

**Subscript** is a small character or string that sits below the line of text.

In math, it is often used to write number bases like 64_{8} or chemical formulas such as H_{2}O or NH_{3}.

Most Excel formatting can be applied to any data type in the same way. Superscript and subscript are a different story. The methods described in this section work only for **text values**, but not for numbers. Why? I believe only the Microsoft team know the exact reason :) Possibly because this would convert numbers to strings and they want to prevent you from accidentally mangling your data.

Every time you want to format text in Excel, open the **Format Cells** dialog box. It allows you to quickly apply the superscript, subscript, and strikethrough effect or whatever formatting you want.

In case of superscript and subscript, there is one hurdle. You can't just apply the format normally to the entire cell because this would move all the text above or below the baseline, which is almost certainly not what you want.

Here are the steps to insert subscript or superscript correctly:

- Select the text you'd like to format. For this, double click a cell and select the text using the mouse. Or you can go the old-fashioned way - click the cell and press F2 to enter edit mode.
- Open the
*Format Cells*dialog by pressing Ctrl + 1 or right-click the selection and choose*Format Cells…*from the context menu.

- In the
*Format Cells*dialog box, go to the*Font*tab, and select**Superscript**or**Subscript**under*Effects*.

- Click
*OK*to save the change and close the dialog.

Done! The selected text will be subscripted or superscripted depending on which option you've ticked off.

Note. Like any other formatting in Excel, it changes only visual representation of the value in a cell. The formula bar will display the original value without any indication of the applied superscript or subscript format.

Although there is no shortcut in its pure sense to add subscript or superscript in Excel, this can be done with a couple of key combinations.

Ctrl + 1, then Alt + E, and then Enter

Ctrl + 1, then Alt + B, and then Enter

Please pay attention that the keys should not be pressed simultaneously, each key combination should be pressed and released in turn:

- Select one or more characters you want to format.
- Press Ctrl + 1 to open the
*Format Cells*dialog box. - Then press either Alt + E to select the
*Superscript*option or Alt + B to select*Subscript*. - Hit the Enter key to apply the formatting and close the dialog.

In Excel 2016 and higher, you can also add the Subscript and Superscript buttons to their Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). Here are the steps for this one-time setup:

- Click the down arrow next to the QAT in the upper left corner of the Excel window, and choose
*More Commands…*from the pop-up menu.

- Under
*Choose commands from*, select*Commands Not in the Ribbon*, scroll down, select**Subscript**in the list of commands, and click the**Add**button. - In the same way, add the
**Superscript**button. - With both buttons added to the list of commands on the right pane, click
*OK*to save the changes.

And now, you can simply select the text to be subscripted or superscripted in a cell or in the formula bar, and click the corresponding icon on the Quick Access Toolbar to apply the format:

Moreover, a special **keyboard shortcut** is assigned to each Quick Access Toolbar button enabling you to subscript and superscript in Excel 2016 with a single key stroke! The key combinations vary depending on how many buttons your QAT accommodates.

To find out the superscript and subscript shortcuts on your computer, hold the Alt key and look at the Quick Access Toolbar. For me, they are as follows:

- Subscript shortcut: Alt + 4
- Superscript shortcut: Alt + 5

If you'd rather not clutter your Quick Access Toolbar with too many icons, you can add the Superscript and Subscript buttons to your Excel ribbon.

Because custom buttons can only be added to custom groups, you will have to create one. Here's how:

- Right-click anywhere on the ribbon and select
*Customize the Ribbon…*from the pop-up menu. This opens the*Excel Options*dialog box. - In the right part of the dialog box, under
*Customize the Ribbon*, select the desired tab, say*Home*, and click the**New Group**button. - Click the
*Rename*button to give the newly added group a name you like, e.g.*My Formats*. At this point, you will have the following result:

- In the left-hand drop-down list, under
*Choose commands from*, select*Commands Not in the Ribbon*, then choose**Superscript**in the list of commands, and click**Add**. - Next, select
**Subscript**in the list of commands and click the**Add**button again.

- Click
*OK*to save the changes and close the dialog box.

Now, you can subscript and superscript in Excel by clicking the corresponding button on the ribbon:

Depending on whether you want to remove all or particular subscripts/superscripts in a cell, select the entire cell or only the subscripted/superscripted text, and do the following:

- Press Ctrl + 1 to open the
*Format Cells…*dialog box. - On the
*Font*tab, clear the**Superscript**or**Subscript**checkbox. - Click
*OK*.

The subscript and superscript formats can also be deleted by pressing the respective keyboard shortcut or clicking the corresponding button on the ribbon and QAT if such buttons are added in your Excel.

Below, you will find a few techniques to do superscript and subscript for numeric values. Please keep in mind that some of the methods convert numbers to strings, while others change only a visual display of the value in a cell. To see the actual value behind a superscript, look at the formula bar. Also, please be sure to carefully read the limitations of each method before using it in your worksheets.

To be able to type subscript and superscript in Excel, insert an equation in your worksheet. Here's how you can do this:

- Go to the
*Insert*tab,*Symbols*group, and click the**Equation**button.

- This will take you to the
*Design*tab, where you click the**Script**button in the*Structures*group, and select the desired format, for example*Superscript*.

- Click the squares, type your values, and you are done!

Alternatively, you can click the **Ink Equation** button and write your math using the mouse. If Excel understands your handwriting, it will show the preview correctly. Clicking the *Insert* button will insert your input in a worksheet.

*Caveats*: This method inserts your math as an Excel **object**, not cell value. You can move, resize and rotate your equations by using the handles, but you cannot reference them in formulas.

Microsoft Excel provides an easy way to insert superscripted numbers in cells, as long as they are 1, 2, or 3. Simply type the following numbers on the **numeric keypad** while holding down the Alt key:

Superscript | Shortcut |

1 | Alt+0185 |

2 | Alt+0178 |

3 | Alt+0179 |

By using these shortcuts, you can type superscripts in empty cells and attach them to existing numbers:

*Caveats:*

- These shortcuts work for
**Calibri**and**Arial**If you are using some other font, the character codes may be different. - The numbers with superscripts are turned into
**numeric strings**, meaning you won't be able to perform any calculations with them.

Another quick way to do superscript in Excel is by using the CHAR function with the corresponding code.

Superscript^{1} formula: `=CHAR(185)`

Superscript^{2} formula: `=CHAR(178)`

Superscript^{3} formula: `=CHAR(179)`

This method comes in handy when you'd like to preserve the original numbers. In this case, you concatenate the CHAR function with the original number and enter the formula in the next column.

For example, that's how you can add superscript two to the number in A2:

`=A2&CHAR(178)`

*Caveat*: As with the previous method, the formula output is a **string**, not number. Please notice the left-aligned values in column B and right-aligned numbers in column A in the screenshot above.

If you'd like to add superscript to a range of numbers, a faster way would be creating a custom format. Here's how:

- Select all the cells to be formatted.
- Press Ctrl + 1 to open the
*Format Cells…*dialog. - On the
*Number*tab, under*Category*, select**Custom**. - In the
**Type**box, enter 0, which is the digit placeholder, then hold the Alt key as you type the corresponding superscript code.For example, to create a custom number format for superscript 3, type 0, press the Alt key, type 0179 on the numeric keypad, then release Alt.

- Click
*OK*.

The superscripted numbers will look similar to this:

To make a custom **subscript format** or superscript format with numbers other than 1, 2, or 3, copy the needed character from here. For example, to insert superscript 5, set up a custom format with this code: 0⁵. To add subscript 3, use this code: 0₃.

To **remove superscripts**, simply set the cell format back to *General*.

*Caveat*: Unlike the previous method, Excel custom number format does not change the original value in a cell, it only changes the **visual representation** of the value. In the above screenshot, you can see 1³ in cell A2, but the formula bar displays 1, meaning the actual value in the cell is 1. If you reference A2 in formulas, its real value (the number 1) will be used in all calculations.

In case you need to quickly add a certain superscript to the entire column of numbers you can automate the creation of a custom number format with VBA.

Here is a simple one-line macro to add **Superscript Two** to all selected cells.

To add other superscripts, replace Chr(178) with the corresponding character code:

**Superscript One**: Chr(185)

**Superscript Three**: Chr(179)

This macro can also be used to attach the **degree sign** to the numbers in the selected cells. For this, use Chr(176), and your numbers will get formatted in this way:

The step-by-step instructions on how to insert and run VBA code in Excel can be found here. Or, you can download our sample workbook with all superscript macros and open it alongside your own workbook. Then, in your workbook, press Alt + F8, select the desired macro, and click *Run*.

Microsoft Excel does not provide shortcuts or character codes to insert superscripted numbers other than 1, 2 or 3. But we know that the impossibility is nothing :) Simply copy the subscripted and superscripted numbers and mathematical symbols from here:

Subscripts: ₀ ₁ ₂ ₃ ₄ ₅ ₆ ₇ ₈ ₉ ₊ ₋ ₌ ₍ ₎

Superscripts: ⁰ ¹ ² ³ ⁴ ⁵ ⁶ ⁷ ⁸ ⁹ ⁺ ⁻ ⁼ ⁽ ⁾

Apart from simplicity, this method has one more advantage - it allows you to add subscripts and superscripts to any cell value, text and numbers!

If you need Unicode subscript and superscript letters and symbols, you can copy them from this Wikipedia article.

That's how to use subscript and superscript formats in Excel. I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week!

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