Word: Insert mathematical symbols

July 4, 2011

I’ve been editing environmental science documents in Word 2007 for a couple of years now, and I’ve always wondered how the authors inserted symbols such as mu and the double approximation symbol. I had assumed that they hunted them out on the Symbols dialog box and inserted them that way. But maybe not.

I must have been living under a rock, because I’ve just discovered another, simpler way to insert these types of mathematical symbols into Word. Unfortunately, this trick only seems to work in Word 2007 or later, so if you have Word 2003 or earlier, you’ll have to hunt them out via the Symbols dialog.

However, if you have Word 2007 or later, you can make one setting change, then, if you know the name of the symbol that Word uses (e.g. \mu or \approx), you can just type it in and when you press a space, tab or Enter after it, it will convert to the symbol using the power of AutoCorrect.

Change the setting

  1. Open the Word Options dialog box:
    • Word 2007: Click the Office button, then click the Word Options button.
    • Word 2010: Go to the Find tab and select Options.
  2. Select Proofing in the left pane.
  3. Click the AutoCorrect Options button (near the top right).
  4. Select the Math AutoCorrect tab.
  5. Select the Use Math AutoCorrect rules outside of math regions check box.
  6. While you’re here, take a look at the codes for the symbols you might want to use often — almost all of them start with a backslash (e.g. \mu).
  7. Click OK, then OK again to close the dialog boxes.

Enter the ‘code’ for the symbol

In your Word document, type the code for the symbol, followed by any of these: spacebar, Tab key, Enter key. The code automatically converts into the symbol.

For example:



  1. A great find but the backslash list does not include the math symbol for the minus sign. Is there a way of adding the math minus symbol to the list?

  2. Hi Morley

    Yes, it seems strange they don’t include it. However, you can get various dashes created using the keyboard.

    There’s the ordinary dash/hyphen on the standard keyboard, of course.

    To create an en dash (slightly longer than the hyphen), hold down the Alt key as you type 0150 on the number pad to the right of the main keys (the numbers across the top of the keyboard DO NOT work for this)

    To create an em dash (slightly longer then the en dash), press Alt+0151.

    Hopefully, one of these should do what you want.


  3. Thanks for the perfect explaination…

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