A useful and clever Trick on Microsoft Word for Science and Engineering

I type out plenty of technical information. For equations I use Word’s equation editor that has replaced the old equation editor since Office 2007. I recently had to edit some old-style equations and realized how much of an improvement the new one was in usability and utility.

When I’m not using equations but typing information in sentences, such as “The temperature is 1155 °R” or “The mass flux is reported in g/s·m2“. In these, I have to use special (non-keyboard) characters such as the degree sign or middle dot. Looking these up by charmap (I’m on Windows) or the Insert > Symbol menu is slow.

To solve this, I use1 AutoCorrect as follows:

  1. Open a blank document in Microsoft Word.
  2. Using charmap or Insert > Symbol, type the degree sign. Beware of “º”, the “masculine ordinal indicator”! It’s wrong!
  3. Follow it with “C”, “R” or “F”.
  4. Highlight the two characters
  5. Go to File > Options. Select “Proofing”. Select “AutoCorrect Options…”
  6. At the bottom of the dialog box, enter “degR” in the “Replace:” field. (Click image thumbnail below to see this)
  7. OK out of the dialog box and Options window.degR-Word

To test this out, start a new document and type “degR” and hit space. You should end up with “°R”!

I recommend the following AutoCorrect shortcuts for science and engineering:

degR -> °R (degrees Rankine)
degC -> °C (degrees centigrade)
degF -> °F (degrees Fahrenheit)
(x) -> × (multiplication sign)
(.) -> · (multiplication dot)

Note that kelvins are do not use the degree sign, so “°K” is incorrect.


  1. If you’re a business major, it’s OK to say “leverage” here so your fellow business majors don’t think you’re an engineer or something. (; (; 
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