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.

Single-Character Fractions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 25, 2018)

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://wordmvp.com/FAQs/Formatting/CreateFraction.htm

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 (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.

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

Using a Single-Column Heading in a Multi-Column Layout

Want different numbers of columns all on the same page? Word makes it easy to use, for instance, a heading that uses a ...

Discover More

Highlight Words from a Word List

Do you need to highlight certain words in a document, and aren't quite sure how to go about it? Using the techniques ...

Discover More

Avoiding Scientific Notation on File Imports

When importing information from a CSV file, you may get unintended results from time to time. Here's how to force Excel ...

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 Nonprinting Characters

Even characters that print nothing still take space in your document. Characters such as tabs, spaces, breaks, and the ...

Discover More

Meaningless Text

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, or so the story goes. Here's how to put this type of meaningless text into a ...

Discover More

Viewing More of the Left Margin Area

When working in Draft or Normal view, you may want to view the area just to the left of the document's left margin. ...

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 two minus 1?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.