How to Type a Chemical Formula

Written by rebekah richards
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Chemical formulas represent a common notation used to describe the components of a compound. Chemical formulas use abbreviations of elements and subscript text to note their quantities. For example, water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, written as H20. Since chemical formulas use subscript text to denote the number of atoms of specific elements, understanding how to format subscript text is essential to typing chemical formulas.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    If using Microsoft Word, type your chemical formula, including the numbers. For example, glucose translates to C6H12O6.

  2. 2

    Highlight a number to change it to subscript. Select the "Format" menu and open the "Font" tab. A menu will appear.

  3. 3

    Under "Effects," check the box next to "Subscript." Click "OK."

  4. 4

    Repeat for each number that needs to be formatted as subscript.

Tips and warnings

  • You can also open the Font menu by holding down the Control key and typing D.
  • If you are making several numbers subscript, save time by double-clicking the Format Painter brush icon after making your first number subscript and then highlighting each number. This copies your formatting onto any text you select.

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