How to Type Chemical Equations in Microsoft Office Word

Written by heather lacey
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How to Type Chemical Equations in Microsoft Office Word
Chemical equations can illustrate chemical bonds. (nitroglycerine image by Heinz Hemken from

Chemical reactions occur when substances bond or break apart and scientists use chemical equations as an abbreviation to describe these reactions. As part of their high school and college chemistry education, students also learn about chemical bonds and how to write chemical equations. When preparing homework assignments using Microsoft Word, use subscript formatting to ensure that equations are presented in the standard format.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Open a new document in Microsoft Word. Type a heading appropriate to the assignment.

  2. 2

    Complete a balanced chemical equation on a sheet of paper. Chemistry homework assignments generally provide an unbalanced equation that needs to be balanced. Go through each element from left to right to verify that the same quantity appears on both sides of the equal sign. Add the appropriate coefficients to elements on the right side of the equation to balance.

  3. 3

    Type a balanced chemical equation in Microsoft Word using capital letters and numbers. For example, the chemical equation for the creation of two water molecules should be written as 2H2 + O2 = 2H2O.

  4. 4

    Refer to your handwritten equation to determine the numbers that describe the atom count. These numbers must be changed to subscript so they sit lower than the rest of the equation.

  5. 5

    Highlight the atom counts with your cursor. If there are multiple atom counts in the equations, hold the "Ctrl" key as you highlight each character. Do not highlight coefficient numbers.

  6. 6

    Select "Fonts" from the Home tab. Click "Subscript" to change the highlighted portion of the equation to subscript font.

Tips and warnings

  • The directions above are intended for use with Microsoft Word 2007. For earlier versions of Word, access the Format menu, click Font and choose the "Font" tab. Check the "Subscript" checkbox on this menu.
  • The shortcut keys for subscript are "Ctrl" and "=" held simultaneously.

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