Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Single-Character Fractions.

Single-Character Fractions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 27, 2021)

1

You may have noticed that if you type fractions into a Word document, some fractions are automatically changed to a single-character fraction, and others remain just as you typed them. The reason for this is simple, really: Word has a setting that does the conversion to a single-character fraction, but only for some fractions.

To see where the setting is made, take a look at the AutoFormat As You Type settings. You can pull them up in this manner:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Make sure that Proofing is selected at the left side of the dialog box.
  3. Click the AutoCorrect Options button. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  4. Make sure the AutoFormat As You Type tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  6. Note the Fractions with Fraction Character setting. With this checkbox selected, Word replaces some fractions with a single-character version of the fraction.

Why did I say that Word only replaces some fractions? Because that is all Word can do. Most fonts contain a very limited number of fractions as single characters. Fractions such as 1/2, 1/4, and 3/4 all have a single-character equivalent in most fonts, so it is "safe" for Word to do the automatic conversion. Other fonts may include some other single-character representation of common fractions. For instance, Times New Roman has characters for several fractions as shown in the following figure: (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Symbol dialog box.

Since these single-character fractions aren't in all fonts, however, Word won't do the conversion automatically.

The upshot of all this is that single-character versions of fractions are dependent on the font you are using. Further, automatic translation of a limited number of fractions to their single-character counterparts is controlled in Word by an AutoFormat As You Type setting. If you know that the font you are using has additional single-character fractions, then you can create an AutoCorrect entry to do the conversion for you. (How to use AutoCorrect has been discussed in other issues of WordTips.)

Understanding that the display of fractions is primarily dependent on the font being used, some people choose to not rely on single-character versions of fractions. Instead, they turn off the AutoFormat As You Type setting for fractions and instead format three-character fractions all the time. They either leave the fraction numerator and denominator as regular type, or they superscript the numerator and subscript the denominator. By adjusting spacing between the characters, you can achieve a decent-looking fraction. You can then copy the formatted text to an AutoCorrect entry for future use.

If you don't mind making macros, you can create some handy ones that will do the formatting of fractions for you. The following VBA macro will format any fraction; all you need to do is select the characters that make up the fraction and then run the macro.

Sub MakeFraction()
    Dim fractionbit As Range
    Dim iSlashPlace As Integer
    With Selection
        iSlashPlace = InStr(.Text, "/")
        Set fractionbit = ActiveDocument.Range _
          (Start:=.Start, End:=.Start + iSlashPlace - 1)
        fractionbit.Font.Superscript = True
        Set fractionbit = ActiveDocument.Range _
          (Start:=.Start + iSlashPlace, End:=.End)
        fractionbit.Font.Subscript = True
    End With
End Sub

The macro formats the portion of the selection before the slash as superscript, and the portion after as subscript.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9565) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Single-Character Fractions.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is one more than 1?

2021-02-27 08:36:28

Lew Kaye-Skinner

First, a disclaimer: Since retiring, I use WordPerfect much more than Word, so much of what I once knew is evaporating.
Now to the issue of single-character fractions, isn't it possible to add a font change to an auto-change entry? If you don't mind the appearance, you could have all the fractions you use added to your auto-change list.


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