Superscripts and subscripts are letters and numbers that appear slightly above or below the main text, respectively. Each day, we encounter and use superscripts in various ways.
Examples of superscripts that we encounter daily appear in ordinal numbers such as 1st or 4th; the “degree” symbol in temperature °F or °C; and in mathematics when working with an exponent (power number) as in 33.
Here, are a two more examples of superscripts that are not regularly encountered unless you are reading or writing an academic paper that conforms to MLA style guide or you are a musician.
An example of a superscript symbol in academic writing can be found at the end of the following sentence. That number that corresponds to the same number of the Works Cited section2.
In music theory and keyboard harmony, the Roman numeral indicates the triad built on the corresponding scale degree while the Arabic numerals indicate chord inversion, and if there are more than three different pitches in the chord, e.g., I6, ii4, V7.
Subscripts are less common than superscripts and usually not encountered daily unless you work in certain fields. One area where subscripts are common in chemistry used to indicate the number of atoms or protons, respectively N2 or 8O.
Music is another field where subscripts occur regularly. In music, subscripts indicate an altered cord as in♭III. In the field of computer science, subscripts occur regularly to indicate a number system as in 2010.
The combination of the superscript and the subscript is not encountered daily. The combined superscript and subscript is limited to certain disciplines like math and chemistry.
Examples of Combined Superscript and Subscript Symbols
For that reason, some may not have encountered the combined superscript-subscript symbol before. The images A1 through A4 are examples of combined superscript-subscript symbols.
Music theory example
Some readers may be familiar with the concept of combined superscript and subscript symbols but do not know how to create it and need to know it for an assignment, report, or an article.
Such professionals include academic writers, chemistry, professional mathematicians, astronomers, and physicists. Rest easy, you’ve come to the right place. In the following section, we’ll create simultaneous superscript and subscript symbols in MS. Word.
Creating Combined Superscripts and Subscripts
Now, I’ll show you how I created the model (See B1) for this how-to article.
Reduce the numbers to balance out the letter U
1. First, open a new Word document.
2. Next, arrange the numbers and letters into columns from left to right and top to bottom.
Arrange symbols in order
The result is 9|32|54| U (without the vertical lines), but add a single space where I have a line.
Group the symbols
3. Then, select the number 9, it is the first number that’s made a superscript.
Highlight number 9 to superscript it.
4. Click the superscript button located in the toolbar.
Click the superscript button
4. That tells Word to superscript the highlighted character, the number nine in our case.
Number 9 as a superscript
5. The other numbers that need to be converted to superscripts are the numbers 3 and 5. Follow the same procedure used to superscript the number nine, begin by highlighting the number three. The following image shows the numbers nine, three, and five as superscripts.
Superscript the numbers 3 and 5.
7. The next step is to make the numbers two and four subscripts. Begin by highlighting the number two (See Image B6).
Highlight the number 2.
8. Click the subscript button located in the toolbar.
Click the Subscript button
9. Image B8 shows the number two as a subscript.
Number 2 as a subscript
10. Do the same to make the number four a subscript.
Both the numbers 2 and 4 as subscripts
At this point, they are still adjacent numbers, not vertically aligned. The Advanced Font tool is used to align the superscript and subscripts vertically. This tool makes it possible to position every character with exceptional precision. The superscript numbers nine, three, and five must be raised so that the subscript numbers, two and four, can be positioned beneath the three and five, respectively.
11. Highlight the number nine.
Highlight the superscript number 9
12. To access the Advanced Font tool, click Format from the top menu bar, then choose Font.
Select Format, then font.
13. On the Font window, you’ll see two buttons, Font and Advanced. Click the Advanced button. Click the Advanced button.
Click the Advanced button
14. On the Advance window, there are several drop-down fields. Go to one labeled “Position”.
Go to the Position drop-down menu
15. Click on the drop-down list located to the right of the word “Position.” Select “Raised.”
Choose “Raised” on the drop-down menu
16. To the right of the “Raised” drop-down list is the word “By” and there is a field to the right of that. Set the amount raised to “7 pt”.
Set the By field to 7 pt
17. Highlight the number 3.
Highlight number 3
18. Repeat these steps to raise the superscript numbers 3.
Superscript number 3 raised up
19. Repeat for the superscript number 5.
Raise the superscript number 5
21. The next step is the reposition the subscript number 2 beneath the superscript number 3. When repositioning subscripts, highlight the number that will be above it, the superscript number 3.
Highlight the superscript number 3
22. Once highlighted, click “Format” and then “Font” from the top menu.
Select Format, then font.
23. Then, click the “Advanced” button in the “Font” pop-up window.
Click the Advanced button
24. If you highlighted the superscript number 3, then, it will look like this
The Font window with previous setting
25. Go to the “Spacing” drop-down menu, select “Condensed”.
26. Condense by six points (6 pts).
Set Condensed by six points (pt)
Subscript 2 now beneath superscript 3
28. Repeat steps to move the subscript number 4 beneath superscript number 5.
Subscript number 4 positioned beneath superscript number 5.
29. All the numbers are vertically aligned correctly, but there is too much space between columns. Place the cursor in front of the superscript number 3 and press the delete key one time.
Move the second column a single space to the left.
30. Move the third next to the second.
Move the third column a single space to the left.
31. Now, move the letter U a single space left.
Move the letter U to the left
32. To improve aesthetic, reduce the superscripts and subscripts in font size to complement the U.
The finished product
Making the combined superscript-subscript symbol in MS Word is not difficult but there are a few important things to remember. The first is the order of the four key functional tools (superscript, subscript, raised, and condensed).
The second is to highlight the superscript symbol to the immediate left of the subscript symbol before repositioning (condensing) it.
Finally, although raising by 7 points and condensing by 6 points has worked well for me, you may need to experiment when using the raising and condensing commands due to the small differences that exist between fonts.
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