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: Overlining Characters.

Overlining Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 17, 2018)

It is not uncommon to underline characters in your documents. This is typically done for some sort of emphasis. Overlining characters, however, is a bit trickier. Normally you use overlining for documents about electronics, where an overline indicates that the signal line is "active low."

There are many ways you can overline your characters, including searching for special fonts that include the overlines (such as the public-domain SPAtlantis font) or using the Equation Editor (the Underbar and Overbar templates are quite helpful). These solutions, however, can lead to additional problems. For instance, using a special font means that the actual characters used won't match the characters used in the rest of your document, and if you send the document to someone else, you need to make sure you embed the font or provide the font to the other person separately.

The best solution we have found is to use special field commands supplied with Word. For instance, if you wanted to use an overline on the W character, you could do the following:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the overlined character to appear.
  2. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert field braces.
  3. Type EQ \x \to(W).
  4. Delete the extra spaces around what you typed (between the characters and the field braces).
  5. Press Shift+F9 to show the results of the field code.

To change the character displayed, simply change the W in the field to a different character. A similar approach is to use the overline character and use a field to position it "on top of" another character. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the overlined character to appear.
  2. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert field braces.
  3. Type EQ \o(W,).
  4. Position the insertion point between the comma and the closing parenthesis
  5. Hold down the Alt key as you use the numeric keypad to type 0175. This inserts an overscore character.
  6. Delete any extra spaces appearing in the field.
  7. Press Shift+F9 to show the results of the field code.

Depending on the fonts you are using, either of the foregoing may result in overlines that are a bit too long for your liking. If you want an overline that is more closely related to the size of the character you are using, try these steps (again using a field):

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the overlined character to appear.
  2. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert field braces.
  3. Type EQ \o(W,).
  4. Between the comma and the closing parenthesis, press Ctrl+F9 again. This places a second field, this one within the first field.
  5. Type EQ \s\up10(_).
  6. Delete any extra spaces within the two field braces.
  7. Press Shift+F9 twice to show the results of the field code.

Regardless of which method you use, you can select the field and assign it to an AutoText entry so that it appears automatically when you type the entry.

You can also use a macro, if you prefer, to add the proper field codes. The following example macro prompts you for the character you want overlined, and then creates the field to overline it. The field used in the macro is the one you created manually in the last set of steps.

Sub Overline()
     Dim sChar As String

     sChar = InputBox("Enter character to overline", "Overline")

    Selection.Fields.Add Range:=Selection.Range, Type:=wdFieldEmpty, _
        PreserveFormatting:=False
    Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1
    Selection.Delete Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=2
    Selection.TypeText Text:="EQ \o(" + sChar + ",)"
    Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1
    Selection.Fields.Add Range:=Selection.Range, Type:=wdFieldEmpty, _
        PreserveFormatting:=False
    Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1
    Selection.Delete Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=2
    Selection.TypeText Text:="EQ \s\up10(_)"
    Selection.Fields.ToggleShowCodes
    Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=2
    Selection.Fields.ToggleShowCodes
End Sub

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 (268) 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: Overlining Characters.

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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