Please Note:
This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Overlining Characters. Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated March 17, 2018)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003 It is not uncommon to underline characters in your documents. This is typically done for some sort of emphasis. Overlining characters, however, is a bit trickier. Normally you use overlining for documents about electronics, where an overline indicates that the signal line is «active low.» There are many ways you can overline your characters, including searching for special fonts that include the overlines (such as the public-domain SPAtlantis font) or using the Equation Editor (the Underbar and Overbar templates are quite helpful). These solutions, however, can lead to additional problems. For instance, using a special font means that the actual characters used won’t match the characters used in the rest of your document, and if you send the document to someone else, you need to make sure you embed the font or provide the font to the other person separately. The best solution we have found is to use special field commands supplied with Word. For instance, if you wanted to use an overline on the W character, you could do the following:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the overlined character to appear.
  2. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert field braces.
  3. Type EQ \x \to(W).
  4. Delete the extra spaces around what you typed (between the characters and the field braces).
  5. Press Shift+F9 to show the results of the field code.

To change the character displayed, simply change the W in the field to a different character. A similar approach is to use the overline character and use a field to position it «on top of» another character. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the overlined character to appear.
  2. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert field braces.
  3. Type EQ \o(W,).
  4. Position the insertion point between the comma and the closing parenthesis
  5. Hold down the Alt key as you use the numeric keypad to type 0175. This inserts an overscore character.
  6. Delete any extra spaces appearing in the field.
  7. Press Shift+F9 to show the results of the field code.

Depending on the fonts you are using, either of the foregoing may result in overlines that are a bit too long for your liking. If you want an overline that is more closely related to the size of the character you are using, try these steps (again using a field):

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the overlined character to appear.
  2. Press Ctrl+F9 to insert field braces.
  3. Type EQ \o(W,).
  4. Between the comma and the closing parenthesis, press Ctrl+F9 again. This places a second field, this one within the first field.
  5. Type EQ \s\up10(_).
  6. Delete any extra spaces within the two field braces.
  7. Press Shift+F9 twice to show the results of the field code.

Regardless of which method you use, you can select the field and assign it to an AutoText entry so that it appears automatically when you type the entry. You can also use a macro, if you prefer, to add the proper field codes. The following example macro prompts you for the character you want overlined, and then creates the field to overline it. The field used in the macro is the one you created manually in the last set of steps.

Sub Overline() Dim sChar As String sChar = InputBox("Enter character to overline", "Overline") Selection.Fields.Add Range:=Selection.Range, Type:=wdFieldEmpty, _ PreserveFormatting:=False Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1 Selection.Delete Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=2 Selection.TypeText Text:="EQ \o(" + sChar + ",)" Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1 Selection.Fields.Add Range:=Selection.Range, Type:=wdFieldEmpty, _ PreserveFormatting:=False Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1 Selection.Delete Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=2 Selection.TypeText Text:="EQ \s\up10(_)" Selection.Fields.ToggleShowCodes Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=2 Selection.Fields.ToggleShowCodes End Sub 

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I’ve prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab. WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training.
(Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.)
This tip (268) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Overlining Characters.

Author Bio

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. Learn more about Allen…


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Using a Field Code

First, we’ll show you how to use a field code to apply overlining to text. Open an existing or new document in Word and place the cursor where you want to put the text with overlining. Press “Ctrl + F9” to insert field code brackets, which are highlighted in gray. The cursor is automatically placed in between the brackets. Enter the following text between the brackets.

EQ \x \to()

NOTE: There is a space between “EQ” and “\x” and between “\x” and “\t()”. “EQ” is the field code used to create an equation and the “\x” and “\to” are switches used to format the equation or text. There are other switches you can use in the EQ field code, including ones that apply bottom, right, left, and box borders to the equation or text. Put the cursor between the parentheses and enter the text you want to overline. To display this as text rather than a field code, right-click anywhere in the field code and select “Toggle Field Codes” from the popup menu. The text you entered into the field code displays with a line above it. When the field code displays as normal text, you can highlight it and apply various formatting to it, such as font, size, bold, color, etc. NOTE: To display the field code again, simply right-click in the text and select “Toggle Field Codes” again. When you put the cursor in text generated from using a field code, the text is highlighted in gray, just like the field code. If you want the line to extend beyond either end of the text, add spaces when entering the text into the field code. This is useful for creating lines with names under them for signing official documents. Field codes work in all versions of Word, for both Windows and Mac.

Using the Equation Editor

You can also apply overlining to text using the equation editor. To do so, click the “Insert” tab in your Word document. In the “Symbols” section of the “Insert” tab, click “Equation”. The “Design” tab under “Equation Tools” displays. In the “Structures” section, click “Accent” to access various accents you can apply to the top of the text in the equation. There are two different accents you can use. Select either the “Bar” under “Accents” on the drop-down menu… …or select the “Overbar” under “Overbars and Underbars”. The “Overbar” produces a slightly longer line above the text than the “Bar”. The selected accent displays over the small dotted box in the equation object. To enter your text, click on the dotted box to select it. Type your text into the dotted box. The line extends to cover the text as you type. Click outside of the equation object to view the finished “equation”, or overlined text. Notice that when entering a hyphenated word or phrase into an equation in the Equation Editor, such as “How-To Geek”, there are spaces before and after the dash. That’s because it’s an equation and Word is treating the dash as a minus sign between two operands. If you would rather not have those spaces (or if you don’t have the Equation Editor installed), the first method above, or the following method, may work better for you.

Adding a Paragraph Border

Applying an overline to text can also be accomplished using paragraph borders. Type the text you want to overline into your Word document and make sure the “Home” tab is active on the ribbon bar. Click the down arrow on the “Borders” button in the “Paragraph” section of the “Home” tab. Select “Top Border” from the drop-down menu. The line above the paragraph extends from the left margin to the right margin. However, you can adjust the indents for that paragraph to shorten the line. To do this, you must make the ruler visible. Click the “View” tab. In the “Show” section of the “View” tab, click the “Ruler” check box so there is a check mark in the check box. To change the indents for the paragraph, put the cursor in the paragraph and put your mouse over one of the indent markers on the ruler. For this example, we’ll make the “Right Indent” bigger, shortening the line from the right. NOTE: To move the left indent, put your mouse over the small box directly under the two small triangles on the left side of the ruler to move the triangles together. Do NOT move the triangles separately. Click and drag the indent until the line is the length you want. Release the mouse button when you’re done moving the indent. The line is now shorter. Until Microsoft adds this capability as a regular feature, these methods provide ways around the limitation. They may not be as easy as highlighting text and clicking a single button, or pressing a shortcut key, but they’ll work in a pinch. READ NEXT

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