Insert special word characters and symbols and assign shortcuts to them

Some symbols and special characters that you can type in your Microsoft Word document don’t appear on the keyboard, but you can include them in your document with just a few clicks. If you use these special characters frequently, you can even assign them shortcut keys to make them even easier to include.

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, the language installed in Word, and your keyboard. These symbols and special characters can include fractions, trademark and copyright symbols, foreign currency symbols, and many others.

Word differentiates between symbols and special characters, but you shouldn’t have a hard time locating and inserting either of them into your documents.

Insert a symbol or special character

To insert a symbol, perform the following operations

Word 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016

  1. Click the Insert tab .
  2. Click the Symbol button in the Symbols section at the far right of the ribbon menu. This will open a small box with some of the most used symbols. If the symbol you are looking for is in this group, click on it. The symbol will be inserted and you are done.
  3. If the symbol you are looking for is not in the small symbol box, 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.

Once the symbol is inserted, click the Close button .

Word 2003

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

Once the 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 the Special Characters tab and look there.

If the symbol you are looking for is not on the Special Characters tab, it may be part of a specific font set. Click the Symbols tab and the dropdown list titled “Font.” You may need to review multiple font sets if you are unsure which set your symbol may be included in.

Assigning shortcut keys to symbols and special characters

If you use a particular symbol frequently, you may want to consider assigning a shortcut key to the symbol. Doing so allows you to insert the symbol into your documents with a quick keystroke, without going through menus and dialogs.

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

  1. Select the symbol you want to assign to a shortcut key.
  2. Click the Shortcut Key button. The Customize Keyboard dialog box opens.
  3. In the “Press the new shortcut key” field, press the key combination you want to use to automatically insert the chosen symbol or character.
    1. If the key combination you choose is already assigned to something else, you’ll be told which command it’s currently assigned to next to the “Currently assigned to” label. If you don’t want to override this mapping, click Backspace to clear the field and try another keystroke.
  4. Select where you want the new mapping to be saved from the “Save Changes To” dropdown (*see note below for details on this).
  5. Click the Assign button and then Close .

You can now insert your symbol simply by clicking on the assigned key combination.

* You have the option of saving the shortcut key for the symbol with a particular template, such as the Normal template, which all documents are based on 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.