CO2 Revisited – Make it Automatic

Remember that groovy Tip of the Day for subscripting the 2 in CO2 I sent you recently? There’s another way to do the same thing, according to my Australian e-buddy Rhonda Bracey, editor of CyberText Newsletter (

Did you know that you can do a Find for something like H2O and replace it with H2O? Let’s assume you are writing or editing a scientific document and there are many instances of H2O, CO2, H2SO4, m3 (cubic metres) etc. scattered throughout. Perhaps the author didn’t know how to create a subscript (Ctrl+=) or superscript (Ctrl+Shift+=) easily, or they thought it didn’t matter, or perhaps they thought the editor would sort it out. Maybe they used a tiny font for the sub- or superscript (yes, I’ve seen it….) The end result is the same: the document is peppered with measurements and formulae that should include proper superscripts or subscripts.

Word’s Find and Replace to the rescue. In this example, I’ll use H2O but the same technique applies for anything similar.
1. Change one of the incorrect instances of H2O to the correct formatting (H2O).
2. Copy the correct format (H2O) to the clipboard.
3. Open Word’s Find and Replace (Ctrl+H).
4. In the Find what field, type H2O (the incorrect format).
5. In the Replace with field, type ^c (that’s a Shift+6 for the caret [^] character and a lower case ‘c‘ — the ‘c’ MUST be lower case).
6. Click Replace All.

So, if you don’t want to do the Texas Two-Step, you can use this method. Did you also learn a couple of cool Word shortcuts? I did.

Ctrl + = makes a subscript
Ctrl + Shift + = makes a superscript
^c pastes whatever is in the clipboard, including the formatting codes
Ctrl + H opens the Find and Replace feature

Learn something new every day!

Here’s another useful tidbit from Down Under:
Rhonda says you can set up AutoCorrect in Word to change all your CO2 instances to the proper subscripted versions automatically as you type. Here’s how:
1. In your document, type CO2 and a space, then format it correctly (capital letters, then subscript the 2 but not the space; you should have CO2 ).
2. Select and copy CO2 and its following space. This puts it on the clipboard.
3. Open the AutoCorrect dialog box:
o Word 2003: From the menu, select Tools > AutoCorrect Options.
o Word 2007: Click the large Microsoft button in the top left, click Word Options, click Proofing, then click the AutoCorrect Options button in the AutoCorrect options section.
o Word 2010: Click File in the top left, click Word Options, click Proofing, then click the AutoCorrect Options button in the AutoCorrect options section.
4. About midway down the AutoCorrect dialog box, there are two fields: Replace and With. You should see CO2 in the With field as Word automatically pastes the last thing you copied into that field.
5. In the Replace field on the left, type co2. (Hint: Type it in lower case as this will save keystrokes when you need to use it in your document.)
6. Next to the With field, select Formatted text. This is a critical step. When you select Formatted Text, the pasted CO2 changes to CO2.
7. Click Replace, then click OK.
8. To test that it works, go back to your document, type co2 (lower case) then press the spacebar (or TAB key or ENTER key). Voila! Your co2 is automatically replaced with CO2 and a following space.
How’s that for a nice time-saver! It’s really cool when Technical Writers from across the globe share this good stuff with the Peanut Gallery. Thanks, Rhonda!

Profound Quote of the Day:

“When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them.
Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time.
Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.”
Michael LeBoeuf, American business author, former management professor at University of New Orleans



One Response to “”

  1. petrocomputing Says:

    From Don in Houston:

    Lotsa tips. Thanks!

    What I hate the most is when people do this: C02 (zero instead of O).

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