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: Using the SYMBOL Field.

Using the SYMBOL Field

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 9, 2016)

Word includes a wide range of fields you can use to perform special functions within your documents. One such field is the Symbol field. This field allows you to insert virtually any character you can think of in your documents.

In effect, the Symbol field duplicates the functionality provided by using the Symbol dialog box to insert a symbol in your document. The difference between the two is that when you use the Symbol dialog box, the actual symbol character is inserted in your document. When you use the Symbol field, the actual character is not inserted. Instead, the field is maintained in your document and simply replaced with the symbol character when the document is printed or the field is calculated. (This is a fine distinction, to be sure, but it does make a difference in how Word operates behind the scenes.)

The syntax for the Symbol field is as follows:

{ Symbol 123 }

Note that the field name is followed by a number. This number represents the ANSI value of the character you want inserted. You can use either the decimal value (as shown here) or the hexadecimal value, which is signified by prefacing the number with 0x, as in 0xA7. You can also use the actual character, within quotes, if desired.

There are other switches you can use with the Symbol field, as well. You can use the \f switch to specify the name of the font in which the symbol should be rendered. You can also use the \s switch to specify a point size for rendering the symbol. For instance, if you wanted to use a 17-point Webdings font, you could put the field together as follows:

{ SYMBOL 100 \f "webdings" \s 17 }

When you use a larger point size, it is possible for the symbol to mess up the line spacing (vertical spacing) of your paragraph. This can ruin an otherwise perfect layout. If you want to force Word to ignore any spacing dictated by the symbol size, you can add the \h switch to the field. The result is that as the symbol size increases, it starts to encroach on the line directly above, and possibly overwriting it.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (553) 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: Using the SYMBOL Field.

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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