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: Two Keys with the Press of One.

Two Keys with the Press of One

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 21, 2015)

Sara asked if there was a way to modify the Word keyboard so that whenever she struck the "/" key, Word would actually insert the slash followed by a no-width optional break.

Yes, there is a way to do this, using the AutoCorrect feature in Word. Follow these general steps:

  1. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Symbol tool (in the Symbols group) and then click More Symbols. Word displays the Symbol dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Special Characters tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Special Characters tab of the Symbol dialog box.

  5. In the list of available characters, choose the No-Width Optional Break. (You may need to scroll down to see it.)
  6. Click the Shortcut Key button. Word displays the Customize Keyboard dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  7. Figure 2. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.

  8. Press a keyboard shortcut to associate with the special character. For instance, press Alt+A.
  9. Click Assign to assign the shortcut key, then close the dialog box.
  10. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and Word 2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and click Options.)
  11. Click the Proofing option at the left of the dialog box.
  12. Click the AutoCorrect Options button. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  13. Make sure the AutoCorrect tab is displayed. (See Figure 3.)
  14. Figure 3. The AutoCorrect tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  15. In the Replace box, type a slash ("/").
  16. In the With box, type a slash ("/") and press Alt+A.
  17. Click OK.

That's it. Now, whenever you type a slash, Word will replace it with the desired sequence. However, that being said, you may want to reconsider whether you actually want to make the change to Word.

The lowly keyboard slash key serves several semantically different functions. In typesetting, there are different glyphs for different purposes, and these are accessible through Insert | Symbol. The fraction slash (vinculum) is different from the slash seen in "and/or" (virgule) is different from the shilling mark (now obsolete, except for historical references to English currency).

The default glyph you get when you press the slash key on the keyboard is the virgule. This is used a few different ways:

  1. It is used as a hybrid of the ordinary English word "or" and the logical OR in expressions like "and/or."
  2. It is used to indicate arithmetic division, with spaces around it, as in 12 / 3 = 4:
  3. It is used to mean "per," which is also a form of arithmetic division, in running text, without spaces, as in "calories/serving."

In all three of these uses, if it is really necessary to break the line in the middle of the expression, the concept of adding a no-width optional break after the slash works just fine. But there is one other place where slashes are used in today's writing, and that is in URLs. The preferred place to break a long URL is before the slash, not after. This serves the important function of signaling to the reader that the word beginning the next line is still part of the URL.

So, if you were to create the AutoCorrect entry to replace a slash with a slash followed by a no-width optional space, you wouldn't get the preferred method of breaking the URL across lines. In addition, the URL would no longer be "clickable."

If you decide that the drawbacks to creating the AutoCorrect entry for the slash outweigh the benefits, then you may want to reconsider. A good trade-off may be to create the shortcut key for the no-width optional space, and then simply use the shortcut key to type the character wherever you decide that you need it—either before or after the slash, as appropriate.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10417) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Two Keys with the Press of One.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Getting Rid of Fields Inserted by Third-Party Programs

Third-party programs can be used to affect a document and change what is contained therein. Of course, getting rid of ...

Discover More

Saving Changes in the Personal Workbook

The Personal workbook is a special place used to store information and macros that you can access from all the other ...

Discover More

Squeezing Everything In

Do you have just a line or two of text that 'spills over' onto another printed page? Here are some ways you can compress ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Uppercase and Lowercase AutoCorrect Entries

AutoCorrect can be a great tool to correct, automatically, the typos and wording you enter in a document. Sometimes, ...

Discover More

Make AutoCorrect Pay Attention to Character Case

If you rely on AutoCorrect (as most Word users do), you may have noticed that it doesn't always give the desired results ...

Discover More

Making Sure Word Doesn't Capitalize Anything Automatically

Word, in an effort to be helpful, will often change the capitalization of the words you type. If you tire of Word's ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is nine more than 7?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.