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Single-Character Fractions

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Single-Character Fractions.

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 (Tools | AutoCorrect | AutoFormat As You Type). You will notice a checkbox labeled Fractions With Fraction Character. 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 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.

If you want additional information on how to create different types of fractions in Word, a great place to start is the Word MVP site:

http://word.mvps.org/FAQs/Formatting/CreateFraction.htm

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1634) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Single-Character Fractions.

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