How to Superscript and Subscript in Excel – 2023 Full Guide
Superscripts and subscripts are small characters placed above or below the normal line of type.
Knowing how to format text or numbers in superscript and subscript formats will help you better present texts in technical expressions like exponents, units, and chemical formulas😊
In Microsoft Word, it’s easy to find and apply these formats, but in Microsoft Excel, not so easy. This is because Word is a word processing program while Excel is a spreadsheet program dealing with data and numbers.
But it sure is possible! There are many ways to add superscripts or subscripts in Excel and we are about to teach you how👇
Let’s get started!
Don’t forget to download your free practice workbook as you tag along.
Table of Contents
How to superscript in Excel
A superscript is a small character placed above the type line. It could be a number, letter, or symbol placed above regularly sized text.
Exponents, square or cubic units, footnotes, ordinal indicators, and trademarks are expressions that follow a superscript format.
Before we start, you must know that applying either subscript or superscript in Excel is different for text values and numeric values.
You can’t apply superscript to a text value like SpreadsheetoTM the same way you apply the format to a number value of 123.
But you don’t have to worry, we’ll teach you how to format text and number values into superscript and subscript formats😊
Apply superscript format to text values
Superscripts are applied to specific characters in the text string and not to the entire cell itself.
To prevent formatting the entire cell to a superscript, highlight only the text you’d like to format. You can do that by double-clicking the cell or pressing F2 to enter the cell into Edit mode✍️
Let’s format the trademark symbol (TM) in SpreadsheetoTM to a superscript as it should be.
- Double-click cell A3 and highlight the “TM” symbol.
- Right-click and select the Format Cells option.
The Format Cells dialog box will appear.
- Select the Superscript option in the Effects group.
- Finally, click OK.
That’s it👍 You have formatted the trademark symbol to a superscript.
Note that it only changed the visual representation of the cell value. The formula bar, however, displays the original value without any indication of the format applied.
You can also do the same when you click the dialog launcher of the Font group in the Home Tab.
The dialog launcher is a small arrow in the lower right corner of a group that shows you more related commands. You can find the superscript and subscript buttons there as well.
Now, it’s your turn! Apply superscript format to ordinal indicators and square units in our workbook💪
How to subscript in Excel
A Subscript, on the other hand, is a small character, which can be a number, letter, or symbol placed below the type line.
Subscripts are commonly used in Chemistry when you’re writing chemical formulas such as H2O and CO2🤓
Let’s apply the subscript format to the chemical formula of water (H2O).
- In cell C3, highlight number 2 between the capital letters H and O.
- Right-click and select the Format cells option.
- Select the Subscript option in the Effects group this time.
- Finally, click OK.
That’s right! By formatting number 2, you get to correctly represent the chemical formula of water (H2O).
In the formula bar, however, you can’t see the applied format because it displays the original value always.
Now, it’s your turn! Apply the subscript format to certain characters to CO2 and logby.
Shortcuts for superscript and subscript
Another way to apply the steps above is to use Shortcut keys. Shortcut keys involve key combinations you can press on your keyboard to perform the same operations faster and easier⚡
Simply press the following key combinations to apply superscript in Excel.
You still need to highlight the characters you want to format.
- Highlight the characters.
- Press the Ctrl key and 1 (Ctrl + 1). Make sure to hold down the keys and not press them one by one. This is the keyboard shortcut to make the Format Cells menu pop up.
- Press the Alt key and E (Alt + E). When you press this key combination, you check the Superscript option.
- Finally, press Enter.
You will see the same results as done above. The trademark symbol now follows the superscript format😊
You can apply subscripts using shortcut keys too!
- Highlight the characters.
- Press the Ctrl key and 1 (Ctrl + 1).
- Press the Alt key and B (Alt + B). This is a keyboard shortcut to check the Subscript option.
- Finally, press Enter.
You will see the same results as done above. The number 2 between letters H and O now follows the subscript format.
This is not really a “true” shortcut to applying superscripts and subscripts.
These shortcut keys allow you to do all the steps you did above in applying superscripts and subscripts to text values by just pressing key combinations on your keyboard⌨️
This shows that you can apply superscripts and subscripts without accessing the toolbar and other buttons in the Excel ribbon using your mouse.
But we will still show you how to add a superscript or subscript using the quick access toolbar. Let’s go😊
Add superscript and subscript to your Quick Access Toolbar
You can add shortcuts to the superscript and subscript commands to your Quick Access Toolbar in Microsoft Excel.
The Quick Access Toolbar is found in the top left corner of your Excel window. By default, your Quick Access Toolbar has the Save, Undo and Redo buttons.
To add subscript and superscript commands to your Quick Access Toolbar, click the downward arrow beside the Redo button.
Then select More Commands from the dropdown list.
The Excel options dialog box will pop up. Click the Subscript command option and click the add button. Add the superscript option as well.
That’s it! You have added the subscript and superscript commands to your Quick Access toolbar.
Now, you can find it quickly when you want to format text values into superscript and subscript format🔍
Add subscript or superscript to a numeric value
Adding subscripts or superscripts to texts is different from adding them to numbers.
You can add a subscript or superscript to a number when you write them in an equation. You need to insert an equation to present numbers into a formula or equation.
- Click the Insert tab in the Excel ribbon.
- Click the Symbols group and select Equation.
- In the Equation tab, click the Script button in the Structures Group.
- Select either the subscript or superscript option.
But for our example, click the Superscript format.
Now, you can insert subscripts or superscripts into numbers👍
You can even write complex mathematical equations in the equation box. This equation box isn’t anchored to a cell and you can move, resize or rotate it using the handles.
Superscript vs subscript: What’s the difference?
Superscripts or subscripts are characters, which could be a number, letters, or symbols, placed either above or below the normal line of type.
Superscripts appear above the type line. They are used to represent exponents, square and cubic units, footnotes, ordinal indicators, and trademarks.
Subscripts are placed below the baseline. They are useful in presenting chemical formulas in Chemistry and logarithmic expressions in Math.
That’s it – Now what?
Good job! You now know how to better present texts in technical expressions as you format texts as superscripts and subscripts🥳
Whether it’s simply formatting exponents and symbols, or writing complex chemical and logarithmic formulas. You can do it in Excel!
Speaking of formulas, Excel has tons and tons of built-in formulas to help you work faster and smarter🚀 Learn what a formula is and how to write one when you sign up for my free online email course.
Plus, you’ll learn about the most basic functions in Excel such as the SUM, AVERAGE, and COUNT functions. Click here to sign up✍️
Do you want to learn more about formatting text and number values? Read our article about Number Formatting in Excel: Step-by-Step Tutorial.
Not sure where to start in Excel? Read our article How To Use Excel: A Beginner’s Guide To Getting Started. It’s easy and we will be with you every step of the way😊
I hope this was a helpful read.