Scientific writing: Easily change multiple instances of subscript and superscript formatting in Word

So you just finished the first draft of your report / thesis / paper in Word, but neglected to use the correct subscript and superscript formatting in your chemical formulae or your units. Now you need to change them all before sending the manuscript to your tutor / supervisor / journal editor. Oh, and there are several hundred instances scattered throughout the manuscript.

You probably already guessed that find and replace is the answer. Less obvious, perhaps, is the fast way to replace “13CH4” to something with mixed formatting using normal in-line text, superscripts, and subscripts, like “13CH4“. Here’s how to do it using Word’s option to replace text with the clipboard contents, including formatting.

Screenshot of using "^c" with Word find and replace.

How to use “^c” to replace text with formatting.

Find the first instance of the formula and format it using the correct superscripts and subscripts. The keyboard shortcut for a subscript is Ctrl++; for a superscript it’s Ctrl+Shift++.

Bring up a find and replace. This is Ctrl+H in Word 2013, Ctrl+F in previous versions.

Type your incorrectly formatted formula in the find box, e.g. “13CH4”.

Go back to the main text and copy (Ctrl+C) the correctly formatted instance.

Type “^c” in the replace box. This tells Word to replace the found text with the clipboard contents, including formatting.

Click replace, and voila!

This method is also useful for changing instances of “m/s” to “m s−1” and so on…

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