How to Use Subscript and Superscript in Google Docs

A typography plate.

For most of your day-to-day writing, your text will sit on one line. This seems so obvious, it’s not worth noting. Though, there are many times you’ll use text either above or below the line. These are “subscript” and “superscript” characters, and through a quick couple of button presses, you can add these in Google Docs.

We show you here how to use subscript and superscript in Google Docs. First, let’s talk more about what both are.

What Subscript and Superscript Are

As we noted, subscript and superscript characters are alternatives to writing “on the line.” Here are the key differences:

  • Subscript. This is text that sits below the nominal line and are ‘inferiors’ in typography circles.
  • Superscript. This is text that sites above the nominal line and are ‘superiors’ to those in the know.

If you still have some confusion, it’s certain you’re familiar with these characters. Consider ordinal numbers:

Ordinal numbers.

Also, you may see superscripts used as copyright or trademark symbols (TM). In contrast, chemical formulas use subscripts too. “H2O” is the most common. You’ll find subscripts and superscripts used through many different forms of writing.

How to Use Subscript and Superscript in Google Docs

Most writing apps worth their salt offer ways to add subscript and superscript letters. Microsoft Word and LibreOffice have the option to use these characters.

As one of the leading writing apps available, Google Docs also has the functionality to use subscripts and superscripts. To do this, first start with text written on the same line.

Two paragraphs in Google Docs.

Next, highlight the letters or word you’d like to turn into a subscript or superscript characters and head to the toolbar at the top of the screen. Look under the “Format” option.

The Format menu in Google Docs.

If you look at the Text sub-menu, you’ll find a bunch of options to format your body text. Toward the bottom are the “Subscript” and “Superscript” options.

The Google Docs Text sub-menu.

From here, choose one, and your text will change accordingly.

Formatted text with superscript in Google Docs.

Of course, the functionality wouldn’t be complete without keyboard shortcuts to create subscript and superscript characters. The shortcuts in this case are simple and accessible:

  • Subscript: Control (or Command) + , (comma).
  • Superscript: Control (or Command) + . (period).

Having them under your fingers is a nice usability touch and means you can apply both sets of characters whenever you need them, hassle-free.

In Summary

The ability to format your text is a mainstay for a good Desktop Publishing (DTP) program. Though, other than the standard bold, italics, and underline, there are other formats your text can take. For many mathematicians and scientists, subscript and superscript characters are essential to convey formulas and equations. As a mark of good usability, Google Docs includes this functionality, and there are also keyboard shortcuts to apply the formatting faster.

If want to find out more of what Google Docs can do, we’ve published an article on essential add-ons for the app. Are you going to use subscript and superscript characters in your Google Docs projects? Let us know in the comments section below!

Tom Rankin
Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

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