Using fractions has always been a challenge in Microsoft Word. A few (1/2, 1/4, and 3/4) have been readily available. But what about 1/3, 2/3, and other common ones?

Microsoft recommends creating additional fractions by using equation fields or the Equation Editor. You can learn more about these methods here:;en-us;Q137734

Unfortunately, these methods are inadequate, for a couple of reasons:

1. They’re ugly. The fractions they create are typographically unacceptable.

2. They’re clunky. Using them is a chore, and they create fields or graphics, not actual text.

Fortunately, better methods are available.


The “roll your own” method consists of creating a fraction by hand, using a superscript number, a fraction bar, and a subscript number. Here’s how it works:

1. Type the top number of your fraction (the dividend, if you’re mathematically inclined).

2. Insert a fraction bar (which is different from [more slanted than] the virgule, diagonal, solidus, slash, or whatever you want to call that character below the question mark on your keyboard). To do this:

a. Click Insert > Symbol.

b. Click the Font list

c. Select “Symbol.”

d. Find the number 4 on the top row and count down five squares. See the fraction bar? (ANSI 164.)

e. Click the square containing the fraction bar.

f. Click the “Insert” button.

g. Click the “Close” button.

3. Type the bottom number of your fraction (the divisor). Your fraction should now look like this: 2/3.

4. Select the top number and format it as superscript (Format > Font > Superscript).

5. Select the bottom number and format it as subscript (Format > Font > Subscript).

That’s it! Not a bad-looking fraction, if you ask me. And once it exists, you can turn it into an Autocorrect or Autotext entry so you don’t have to create it from scratch the next time you want to use it.


Unicode fonts include *lots* of characters, including quite a few fractions. So why not use them? You can learn more about Unicode characters here:

Here’s the easiest way to insert Unicode fractions (if your fonts, operating system, and version of Word support it):

1. Click the Insert menu.

2. Click “Symbol.”

3. In the Font list, select a Unicode font, which will display the Subsets list to the right of the Font list and have lots of subsets available (such as Latin-1, Spacing Modifier Letters, and so on).

4. In the Subset list, select “Number Forms.”

5. Somewhere in the characters displayed, you should see some fractions. Click the one you want to use.

6. Click the “Insert” button.

7. Click the “Close” button.

There’s your fraction. Again, you can turn it into an Autocorrect or Autotext entry for easy access.

If you like entering Unicode characters directly (using ALT + X in Word 2002), here are the Unicode numbers you’ll need:

1/3: 2153

2/3: 2154

1/5: 2155

2/5: 2156

3/5: 2157

4/5: 2158

1/6: 2159

5/6: 215A

1/8: 215B

3/8: 215C

5/8: 215D

7/8: 215E

Thanks to Maggie Brown for suggesting this topic.



Jeffrey White wrote:

I am an attorney who writes appellate briefs. That often involves cutting and pasting from other sources. I need to make sure that case names appear in italic. For instance, General Motors Corp. v. Ford Motor Co., 123 F.2d 456 (1990).

It occurs to me that I could use search-replace. Using your discussion of wildcard searching, I have tried to construct a command that will find the most common pattern: One or more words beginning with an initial capital letter, followed by “v. “, followed by one or more capitalized words, ending with a comma.

I have been able get one capitalized word, followed by “v. ” Is there any way to ask Word 2000 to find a string of one or more capitalized words?

I responded:

The following string will find three capped words in a row (including any periods, commas, and spaces):

([A-Z][a-z.,]@ [A-Z][a-z.,]@ [A-Z][a-z.,]@ )

However, when you put in the “v. ” and then *repeat* the string, like this–

([A-Z][a-z.,]@ [A-Z][a-z.,]@ [A-Z][a-z.,]@ )v. ([A-Z][a-z.,]@ [A-Z][a-z.,]@ [A-Z][a-z.,]@ )

–Word will tell you that the string is “too complex.” (Theoretically what you want to do should be possible, but in practice it’s not. MS Word just ain’t that smart, unfortunately.) I haven’t been able to get variations to work either. For example, you’d think that you could use this string to find from 1 to 4 occurrences of a capped word followed by a space:

([A-Z][a-z]@ ){1,4}

But no–at least not in Word 2000. And this *should* work. The wildcard search and replace definitely has some minor bugs, especially with complex searches. I’ve also tried using the “start of word” and “end of word” wildcards (<, >) without success.

There is a workaround you may be able to use, however:

1. Identify all of the names used in the case names in your document (General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., etc.).

2. Find and Replace them with uppercase abbreviations (GMC, FMC, etc.).

3. Use a wildcard Find and Replace to italicize the abbreviations. To do so, put this (possibly with some tweaking to fit your situation) in the “Find What” box:

(<[A-Z]{2,}>) v. (<[A-Z]{2,}>)

Put this (possibly with some tweaking) in the “Replace With” box:

1 v. 2

Format the “Replace With” box as italic (CTRL + I).

4. Click the “Replace All” button.

5. Find the abbreviations and Replace them with the actual names.

Jeffrey then responded:

Building on your suggestion, the following will select the one capitalized word preceding the v. , along with the rest of the case name.

[A-Z][a-z]@ v. [A-Z]*,

That probably does the job for 90% of my case names. If I replace one at a time, instead of Replace All, I can keep an eye out for preceding words that also need italics. That’s still a time savings over a wholly manual edit. Or I can make a second pass, repeating the initial string to find case names beginning with 2 words:

[A-Z][a-z]@ [A-Z][a-z]@ v. [A-Z]*,

And then 3, and so on. It’s hard to know when to stop, because some case names are quite lengthy.

Slowly but surely, many law offices have moved from WordPerfect to Word. Those of us who appreciate the value of working smarter appreciate your newsletter and tools.

Thanks to Jeffrey for sending this interesting challenge. To learn more about wildcard searching, see these back issues of

Editorium Update:



Webopedia bills itself as “the only online dictionary and search engine you need for computer and Internet technology.” If you’re doing technical editing, you’ll probably find it useful:

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