Word: Replace text containing superscript and subscript characters

August 6, 2009

Here’s a trick that’s been around since at least Word 6.0! It works in Word 2003, 2007 and 2010, even though this Microsoft Support article might make you think that it only works up to Word 97.

Did you know that you can do a find for something like H2O and replace it with H2O? Let’s assume you are writing or editing a scientific document and there are many instances of H2O, CO2, H2SO4, m3 (cubic metres) etc. scattered throughout. Perhaps the author didn’t know how to create a subscript (Ctrl+=) or superscript (Ctrl+Shift+=) easily, or they thought it didn’t matter, or perhaps they thought the editor would sort it out. Maybe they used a tiny font for the sub or superscript (yes, I’ve seen it…) The end result is the same — the document is peppered with measurements and formulae that should include proper superscripts or subscripts.

Word’s Find and Replace to the rescue… In this example, I’ll use H2O but the same technique applies for anything similar.

  1. Change one of the incorrect instances of H2O to the correct formatting  (H2O).
  2. Copy the correct format (H2O) to the clipboard (select all the text and then press Ctrl+C).
  3. Open Word’s Find and Replace (Ctrl+H).
  4. In the Find what field, type H2O (the incorrect format).
  5. In the Replace with field, type ^c (that’s a Shift+6 for the caret [^] character and a lower case ‘c‘ — the ‘c’ MUST be lower case).
  6. Click Replace All.

You’re a hero and you’ve just saved yourself a heap of editing time!

[Links last checked July 2009]


  1. This is incredible!! I work for an industrial gases company and often have instances of standard numerals throughout a large patent application needing to be changed to subscript. Works like a charm!

  2. […] Replacing text containing superscript and subscript characters […]

  3. No, no, no, you’re the hero.

    Fantastic, I’ve always wondered how to use replace with superscripts and subscripts.

  4. Hi,

    can not do it in window 7, any idea ?


  5. This is a Word function, not an operating system function. I don’t have Windows 7 so I can’t test it, but I know it works in Word 2003 and Word 2007 in both Windows XP and Vista.

  6. What really was great about your article was the step-by-step instructions. I did find this solution on someone else’s blog but was lost. Also, this was very easy and painless to do. Thanks for posting.

  7. Wow, thanks. I wanted to change all superscripts in many of my tables to subscripts due to APA style formatting which I forgot to read in advance. Those shortcuts for super and subsripts work in ctrl h (replace). subscript (Ctrl+=) or superscript (Ctrl+Shift+=). It saved me ton of time, thank you very much. It was easy as …. too…

  8. It was great solution for me. I am especially work on CO2 and N2O. This tips really save my time.Superb !

  9. Is there a way to simply *search* for superscripted characters?

  10. Hi Kate


    1. Press Ctrl+H and go to the Find tab.
    2. Click More then click Format.
    3. Select Font.
    4. On the Font dialog box, select Subscript then click OK.
    5. Click Find Next.


  11. Thanks!

  12. Oops, I should have said I have Word for Mac 2011. I have a pulldown menu that gives “Advanced Search and Replace,” but I don’t get the options you mention. I’ll keep looking for options….

  13. Sorry Kate — I don’t have a Mac. I hope the same functionality would be on Word for Mac, but I don’t know.


  14. You are my hero!! 111 instances of t/ha replaced with t ha-1 (superscripted -1, of course) in a couple of seconds!!

  15. THANK YOU!!! I’m writing my thesis and have hundreds of corrections like your example to make. :)

  16. i am grateful!

  17. So actually ^c means “clipboard”. Thus, when you put ^c in the “Replace with”, you are telling MS Word to replace all text in “Find what” with what you have in the clipboard.

    I was googling for an hour and finally found your post and fixed my problem(I’m writing my thesis with MS word 2010). Thank you very much.

  18. Hi,

    Dur you know how to replace regular text with superscripted text in powerpoint 2010. I have tons of document where abc™ needs to be changed to abc®. I am unable to use the regular symobol(appearing in powerpoint 2010) for the registered(®) mark as it is appearing very big and I need to superscript it.These documents run into 500-600 slides and during it the regular way is very time consuming.

    Your help with be appreciated very much

  19. Hi divyaharithas

    PowerPoint 2010’s find/replace capabilities are far more basic than Word’s. I just tested some methods and could find no way to do what you want automatically. I could get the replace to happen (abcTM to abc(R)) across all slides, but I couldn’t get the superscript for the (R) part to be recognised.

    Perhaps tackle this another way — make a statement at the beginning of the document that abc(r) is a registered trademark but you will use abc throughout the document, thus avoiding the (r) issue altogether. Of course, your legal people may have directed you otherwise, in which case I can see no other way to do this than manually.

    You might like to ask you question on the Microsoft Office community forums (http://support.microsoft.com/ask-community/more?Family=Office) for PowerPoint 2010 to see if someone there can help. If you do find an answer there, please come back and share it here.


  20. I have the same issue as Yong; I followed the steps and it just replaces the target symbols with ^c, not with the content of my clipboard. I have tried this on both Word 2007 and Word 2010. Any suggestions?

  21. Hi M

    I’ve just retested this in Word 2010 on my Windows 7 computer, and it works for me. It sounds like you have nothing in the clipboard if you’re just getting ^c.

    There are two important things in these steps:
    1. Make sure you manually change ONE of your incorrect instances in your Word document to the correct format (i.e. properly formatted with the superscript character), then copy that correctly formatted one to the clipboard.
    2. When you enter ^c in the Replace field, make sure the ‘c’ is lower case.


  22. Solved a problem which was eating my editing time, Thanks for your tip…

    A doubt ; ^c :-is it gives the clipboard item every time.

  23. Yes, ^c is whatever happens to be on the clipboard at the time.

  24. Big Help!!! Microsoft should give you an award!

  25. I love you!

  26. Hi,

    I am using word 2010. I wish to convert WUEi to WUE(i) where the i is subscript. Following you method (checking the c and the clipboard) I can only seem to convert my entire phrase to subscript format…

    any suggestions?


  27. Hi Lorna

    I’ve just retested this in Word 2010 on my Windows 7 computer, and it worked for me.

    There are two important things in these steps:
    1. Make sure you manually change ONE of your incorrect instances in your Word document to the correct format (i.e. properly formatted with the superscript character), then copy that correctly formatted one to the clipboard.
    2. When you enter ^c in the Replace field, make sure the ‘c’ is lower case.


  28. I have MAC as well and can’t get it to work either… but I don’t think that there is a clipboard either (can apparently only paste the lasted cut, and not choose from a clipboard) so if ^c refers to that this might explain it is not working… than any suggestions??

  29. Hmm – It actually worked now…. have to seek before replacing all at same time!!!!

  30. Wow! Helped a lot!

  31. Hi, I have a lot of values with the unit (x10^9/L) in outputs that I receive. I want to replace the ^9 with superscript 9, but word does not seem to find my complete term in brackets so that I can replace it with the correct complete term in the clipboard (containing the superscript) as you have suggested. Any suggestions would be GREAT! Ina

  32. Hi Ina

    There might be an easier way to do this, but I couldn’t figure it out in only a few minutes. My solution is to do the find/replace in two passes.

    First pass: Find ‘^’ (no quote marks) and replace with something NOT in your main doc (e.g. ‘QQQ’ [no quotes]). That means you now have 10QQQ9/L for each of these values and units of measure.

    Second pass: Change one of these 10QQQ9s to 10 followed by a superscript 9. Copy this to the clipboard. Do another find/replace, this time finding 10QQQ9 and typing ‘^c’ (no quotes, lower case ‘c’) into the replace field.

    That worked for me.


  33. Fantastic tip, you saved me from a bloody tedious work! Thank you so much!

  34. Super trick!!!!!

  35. Amazing…! thanks so much… you’re the real hero…

  36. this didn’t work on excel 2013. does anyone know of a work-around?

  37. A lot of things that work in Word don’t work in Excel — this could be one of them.

  38. all of my subscripts are consecutive numbers. I need to change all of them to normal size and with brackets around each consecutive number. Any ideas how I can do this for a large document?

  39. Hi Bill

    What you want was too long to address in a reply, so I’ve written a new blog post detailing the steps: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/word-change-subscripted-numerals-to-normal-and-surround-with-square-brackets/


  40. Thanks a lot !

    My problem was replacing (0C) with (°C). When I just typed 0C I got both characters in superscript. Then I tried with braces. Worked well. Thanks again !

  41. Hi Laksith

    You should really use the degree symbol, not a superscripted zero, for degrees. In Word, go to Insert > Symbols > More Symbols, then type 176 into the Character code field to get the degree symbol that you can then insert.


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