Creating Special, Compound Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 20, 2015)


Royall wants to print a circumflex over a lower case sigma, a bar over an x and an X, and a superscript directly over a subscript. He wonders if there is an easy way to do these sort of characters in Word.

The traditional way of creating compound characters in Word is to use the EQ field. There are several ways that the field can be used; here is just one method for placing a superscript directly over a subscript:

{ EQ \s\up2(x)\s\do2(y) }

In this case x is the superscript and y is the subscript. You must also remember to create the field braces by pressing Ctrl+F9. The EQ field provides ways you can also create the other compound characters you want. The following page at the Word MVP site provides a good general overview:

Using the EQ field may not be the easiest way to create these specific characters, however. You may want to explore using the Equation Editor to create them and then store them as building blocks. To use the Equation Editor, display the Insert tab of the ribbon and then click the Equation Editor tool in the Symbols group. Word helpfully displays the Equation Tools tab on the ribbon. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Equation Tools tab of the ribbon.

Using the various tools available, you can easily add special symbols (such as the sigma) and position things relative to other characters (such as bars, circumflexes, superscripts, and subscripts). Once you've created an equation to your satisfaction, click the down-arrow that appears to the right of it in Word. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Using the down-arrow next to an equation.

From the resulting Context Menu, choose Save As New Equation. Word displays the Create New Building Block dialog box. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. The Create New Building Block dialog box.

Just provide a short name for the equation and save it. Now, whenever you need to insert that particular compound character, as an equation, you just type the name and then press F3. The name is replaced by the saved equation.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10904) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013.

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 six more than 8?

2015-06-20 07:51:50

Lyn Imeson

I've been using Equation Editor for years but didn't know that you can name an equation. That could be really useful. Thanks.

2015-06-20 06:06:58


Thank you very much for this tip Allen. I have wanted to create a special compound character before but didn't even know the name of it, let alone how to create one.

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