Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 1, 2018)
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:
Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.
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 1/3, 2/3, 1/8, 3/8, 5/8, and 7/8. 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.
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, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Single-Character Fractions.
Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!
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