How to Use Special Characters and Symbols in Word

Special characters

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Some symbols and special characters you may want to type in your Microsoft Word document do not appear on your keyboard, but you can still include these in your document with just a few clicks. If you use these special characters often, you can even assign them to shortcut keys to make including them even easier. 

What Are Special Characters or Symbols in Word?

Special characters are symbols that do not appear on a keyboard. What are considered special characters and symbols will vary depending on your country, your installed language in Word and your keyboard. These symbols and special characters can include fractions, trademark and copyright symbols, foreign country currency symbols and many others.

Word does differentiate between symbols and special characters, but you shouldn't have difficulty locating and inserting either in your documents.

Inserting a Symbol or Special Character

To insert a symbol, follow these steps:

Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019

  1. Click on the Insert tab.
  2. Click the Symbol button in the far-right Symbols section of the Ribbon menu. This will open a small box with some of the most commonly used symbols. If the symbol you're looking for is in this group, click it. The symbol will be inserted and you're done.
  3. If the symbol you're looking for is not in the small box of symbols, click More Symbols... at the bottom of the small box.
  4. Select the symbol you want to insert.
  5. Click the Insert button at the bottom of the dialog box.

Once your symbol is inserted, click the Close button.

Word 2003

  1. Click on Insert in the top menu.
  2. Click Symbol... This opens the Symbol dialog box.
  3. Select the symbol you wish to insert.
  4. Click the Insert button at the bottom of the dialog box.

Once your symbol is inserted, click the Close button.

What If I Don't See My Symbol?

If you don't see what you're looking for among the symbols in the dialog box, click on the Special Characters tab and look there.

If the symbol you're looking for is not under the Special Characters tab, it may be part of a specific font set. Click back over to the Symbols tab and click the dropdown list labeled Font. You may have to look through several font sets if you're not sure in which set your symbol may be included.

Assigning Shortcut Keys to Symbols and Special Characters

If you use a particular symbol often, you may want to consider assigning a shortcut key to the symbol. Doing so will allow you to insert the symbol into your documents with a quick keystroke combination, bypassing the menus and dialog boxes.

To assign a keystroke to a symbol or special character, first, open the Symbol dialog box as described in the steps under inserting symbols above.

  1. Select the symbol you want to assign to a shortcut key.
  2. Click the Shortcut Key button. This opens the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
    1. In the "Press new shortcut key" field, press the key combination you would like to use to automatically insert your chosen symbol or character.
      If the keystroke combination you choose is already assigned to something else, you will be alerted what command it is currently assigned to next to the "Currently assigned to" label. If you don't want to overwrite this assignment, click Backspace to clear the field and try another keystroke. 
  3. Select where you want the new assignment to be saved from the dropdown list labeled Save changes in (see the note below for more details on this).
  4. Click the Assign button, and then Close.

Now you can insert your symbol by simply clicking the assigned keystroke.

You have the option of saving the shortcut key for the symbol with a particular template, such as the Normal template, the one upon which all documents are based by default, or with the current document. If you choose the current document, the shortcut key will only insert the symbol when you are editing this document; if you choose a template, the shortcut key will be available in all documents that are based on that template.

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