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: Aligning Plus/Minus Symbols.

Aligning Plus/Minus Symbols

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 9, 2017)

2

For scientific writing numeric data are often presented in tables in the format of mean +/- standard deviation (with the '+/-' represented by a single character, achieved by holding down the Alt key and press 0177 on the numeric keypad). To make the table look attractive, it is often desirable to have the +/- symbols of different rows aligned with each other.

There are a couple of ways you can align the symbols, depending on the characteristics of the data you are presenting. One solution is to use multiple columns in your table, so that the +/- character appears in its own column. Format the column to the left of the +/- column so that the numbers it contains are right-aligned. Format the +/- column so that it is left-aligned. The information in the two columns should now be butted up to each other, and you can modify the table properties (specifically the left and right cell margins) to adjust the apparent spacing between them. You can also remove the border line that Word automatically adds between columns, if desired.

If all this sounds like a lot of steps, it really can be—it depends on exactly how you want the information in the two columns to look. A simpler solution might be to simply set tab stops within the column itself. If there is no decimal point within the +/- numbers, then you can set a decimal tab in the column. Word automatically aligns the values as if the +/- symbol was really a decimal point.

If the values do have decimal points, then you can set multiple tabs within the column, and then use Ctrl+Tab to actually insert the tab character before the number (to align the number) and between the value and the +/- symbol (to align the symbol).

Unless the data absolutely must be in a table, you should also consider using the Equation Editor to represent the +/- values. The Equation Editor has an alignment mark—a non-printing symbol located on the second palette on the top row of Equation Editor palettes. Just place an alignment mark either to the left or to the right of the +/- symbol and press Enter at the end of each number. It doesn't matter if the alignment mark is to the left or to the right of the +/- symbol, as long as you're consistent for each number.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (290) 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: Aligning Plus/Minus Symbols.

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

Jumping to the Top of a Page

Do you want to easily jump to the top of a page in your document? You can use the Go To command to make the shift, or you can ...

Discover More

Clearing the Undo Stack in a Macro

Excel keeps track of the actions you take so that you can undo those actions if any are taken in error. You may want to clear ...

Discover More

ExcelTips Archives (Special Offer)

ExcelTips is a weekly newsletter that provides tips on how to effectively use Microsoft's best-selling spreadsheet ...

Discover More

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!

More WordTips (menu)

Understanding Default Tab Stops

Ever wonder how Word determines the default setting for each tab stop in your document? This article should satisfy any ...

Discover More

Deleting Tab Stops

Need to delete some tabs tops in a paragraph? It's easy to do using the Tabs dialog box, as described in this tip.

Discover More

Precisely Adjusting Tab Stops

When you need to be very specific about where a tab stop is located, you'll want to become familiar with the Tabs dialog box. ...

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 4 - 3?

2014-01-26 17:51:52

Angus McLean

I find I am not able to simultaneously align the decimal point and the plus and minus signs. Using multiple columns is not an option for me.


The other approach I cannot get to work with decimal numbers of varying number of digits in a column. Please an you elaborate on limitations of tip.


2012-12-09 03:26:17

Gabi,

Where I can find a full table of the ALT+Number operation? ( like 0177 )
for example I know ALT + 1 == SMILLY :-)
☺ etc.


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon 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.