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: Formatting Fractions.

Formatting Fractions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 24, 2011)

You may have noticed that if you type 1/2 in a Word document, the characters are converted automatically to a very nicely formatted fraction. The same is true for other common fractions, such as 1/4 and 3/4. This is because Word replaces those characters with actual single-character font representations of those fractions. Most fonts, however, don't have such characters for other less-common fractions.

One way around this conundrum is to fiddle with the font characteristics of the numbers in your fraction so that the fraction appears as desired. Many of the formatting settings depend on which font you are using, but you can use the following steps as guidance for how to proceed:

  1. Type your fraction.
  2. Select the numerator (the part to the left of the slash) and format it as superscript.
  3. Select the denominator (the part to the right of the slash) and format it as subscript.
  4. Replace the slash with a different "slash-type" symbol, if desired.

There are a couple of things to point out about these seemingly simple steps. First of all, you don't have to use superscript and subscript, if you don't want to. (It is just simpler that way.) You can, if you so desire, just adjust the point size of the font used for the numerator and denominator. A good rule of thumb is to simply make the font size 50% of whatever type size your normal text is. For instance, if your text is 10-point, you would use 5-point; if it is 11-point, you would use 5.5-point.

Using this approach, the numerator would (of course) need to be raised a bit. This is done by following these steps:

  1. Select the numerator.
  2. Press Ctrl+D. Word displays the Font dialog box.
  3. Click on the Character Spacing tab. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Character Spacing tab of the Font dialog box.

  5. Change the Position pull-down list to Raised.
  6. Change the By setting (beside the Position pull-down list) to a value equal to approximately 40% of your base point size. Thus, if you were using 10-point text, you would raise the position by 4 points. (This is just a suggestion. You will need to pick a value based on trail and error for the font you are using.)
  7. Click on OK to close the Font dialog box.

Finally, if you decide to replace the slash in your fraction, you will need to pick one using the Symbol dialog box. The reason you may want to do this is that the slash used in the single-character fonts built into Word (you remember—those created when you type the characters "1/2") uses a slash that is at a different angle than the slash shown when you simply type a slash. There are several good options for this "improved slash," depending on the font you are using. You will need to look around and find the one you like the best.

Once you have created your fraction, the easiest way to use it is to define it as an AutoCorrect entry. (How to do this has been covered in other issues of WordTips.) Simply make sure that the AutoCorrect entry is saved as formatted text, and you will be able to use your new fraction quickly and easily.

If you use a limited number of fractions over and over again, the AutoCorrect approach is nice and easy. If you use a lot of different fractions, you can instead use a macro to provide the formatting you need. The following macro, FmtFraction, will use the superscript/subscript method to produce a formatted fraction.

Sub FmtFraction()
    Dim OrigFrac As String
    Dim Numerator As String, Denominator As String
    Dim NewSlashChar As String
    Dim SlashPos As Integer

    NewSlashChar = "/"

    Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdWord, count:=3, Extend:=wdExtend
    OrigFrac = Selection
    SlashPos = Instr(OrigFrac, "/")
    Numerator = Left(OrigFrac, SlashPos - 1)
    Denominator = Right(OrigFrac, Len(OrigFrac) - SlashPos)
    Selection.Font.Superscript = True
    Selection.TypeText Text:= Numerator
    Selection.Font.Superscript = False
    Selection.TypeText Text:= NewSlashChar
    Selection.Font.Subscript = True
    Selection.TypeText Text:= Denominator
    Selection.Font.Subscript = False
End Sub

To use the macro, simply position the insertion point at the end of the fraction you typed, and then run it. If you want to change the slash character used, change the character assigned to the NewSlashChar variable.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1803) 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: Formatting 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. ...

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