How to apply Superscript and Subscript in Excel

In this guide, we will run through the basics of how to apply both superscript and subscript formatting to values in Excel.

We will cover:

  • What is Superscript and Subscript
  • How to apply Superscript and Subscript formatting
  • Considerations

What is Superscript and Subscript

A superscript is a formatting technique that can be applied to a value that makes it appear at an elevated level (and generally smaller) than the rest of the text.

Generally it is used in the context of formulas or mathematical concepts such as squaring a value – eg x2.

Subscript in Excel from a formatting point of view is essentially the opposite – it places the value at a lower level to the rest of the rest.

How to apply Superscript and Subscript formatting

To begin with, type in the values that you want formatted manually into a cell. In this example we simply have y2

Text to apply superscript to

Next, highlight the portion of the text that you wish to apply the superscript to, and then right click and select format cells.

Note: if you do not highlight the specific portion of the text, and simply right click the entire cell then all of the characters typed will have the formatting applied – which more often than not is not what you will want.

Format select for superscript

From here, you will have the options to choose from a range of formatting options such as font, style and size. The field we are looking for is the set of checkboxes at the bottom. In this example click Superscript and press OK.

superscript and subscript format boxes

The resulting formatting will appear as follows:

superscript in excel

As we can see, the process is very simple. If we were to have selected the Subscript check box instead the resulting formatting would appear in this way:

subscript in excel

Considerations for Superscript

One important point to note with this formatting technique is that it is simply that – formatting. Adding a superscript to a character doesn’t apply the mathematical formula that comes with it such as squaring a value.

If you want to do the actual calculation for something such as 32 for example it would appear as this in Excel, resulting in the value of 9:

superscript formula in excel

As we can see, the use of the ^ symbol in Excel performs the calculation itself, while the Superscript check box simply formats the text or numerical value. Both handy in their own ways and can work well alongside each other depending on the purpose of the document.

This sums up our guide on working with Superscript and Subscript formatting in Excel – for more handy tips be sure to visit our Excel Tips page