How-To Geek

How to Use Symbols in Word 2013


Hundreds of symbols that are not available on your keyboard are provided in Microsoft Word for use in your documents. For example, you can insert fractions (½), a degree symbol (°), pi (π), or currency symbols, such as the British pound symbol (£).

There’s a set of symbols and characters for each font set.

To insert a symbol, place the cursor in your Word document where you want the symbol and click the Insert tab on the Ribbon.


Click the Symbol button in the Symbols section of the Insert tab and select More Symbols.


On the Symbol dialog box, select the font from which you want to select a symbol from the Font drop-down list.


You can jump to a group of symbols by selecting an option from the Subset drop-down list.


Select the desired symbol by clicking on it and then click Insert.


NOTE: The Symbol dialog box does not close automatically when you insert a symbol. This allows you to insert more than one symbol at a time. If you are finished inserting symbols, click Close.


Symbols you recently inserted into your Word document are listed under Recently used symbols. This is useful if you insert the same symbols often.

Each symbol has a built-in shortcut key code assigned by Microsoft. However, these are not easy to remember unless you make yourself a cheat sheet. You can assign easy-to-remember shortcut keys to symbols you insert often so you don’t have to open the Symbol dialog box every time, or remember multiple number codes.


There are two ways you can assign shortcut keys to symbols. One method involves right-clicking on a section title on any tab on the Ribbon and selecting Customize Ribbon from the popup menu.


On the Customize Ribbon screen on the Word Options dialog box, click Customize next to Keyboard shortcuts below the list of commands on the left side.


On the Customize Keyboard dialog box, scroll down to the bottom of the Categories list and select Common Symbols. Then, select the symbol to which you want to apply a shortcut key in the Common Symbols list. Click in the Press new shortcut key edit box and press the keys for the shortcut you want. Click Assign. The shortcut key is added to the Current keys box.

The Customize Keyboard dialog box does not close automatically when you a assign a shortcut key. To close the dialog box, click Close.

NOTE: For more information about assigning shortcut keys in Word, see our article.


Click OK on the Word Options dialog box to close it.


You can also assign a shortcut key from the Symbol dialog box by clicking the Shortcut Key button.


This gives you direct access to the Customize Keyboard dialog box where you can assign a shortcut key to the selected symbol as described above. For this method, the only symbol available on the Customize Keyboard dialog box is the one selected on the Symbol dialog box.


Again, when you have assigned the shortcut key(s) to the symbol, click Close.


The Symbol dialog box also allows you to insert additional characters and symbols using the Special Characters tab, such as the special types of spaces, dashes, and hyphens. To insert a special character, select the desired character and click Insert.

You can also assign or change shortcut keys for special characters using the Shortcut Key button.


Assign shortcut keys on the Customize Keyboard dialog box as previously described.


Check out the three Wingdings fonts in the Symbol dialog box for some useful symbols, characters, and small images.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 05/20/13

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