The QWERTY keyboard can hold only so many characters, so if you frequently use symbols like § or ¶ or even °, you may think you’re out of luck. Here’s an illustrated tutorial on adding symbols and other special characters to your documents, including how to designate a shortcut key or AutoCorrect entry to insert symbols without ever clicking on the Ribbon.1
First, go to the Insert tab and click on Symbol:
You may get lucky here and see yours in the short list above (particularly if it’s something you’ve used recently). If not, click More Symbols.
The Symbol dialog box has a much more extensive list of symbols. You can drop down the Subset list to limit your search, or simply scroll down until you find your symbol. (You’ll notice that the ¶, § and ° symbols are all under Latin-1 Supplement.)
You can find some commonly-used symbols faster on the Special Characters tab of this dialog box:
Insert Symbols with a Shortcut Key
Going back to the Symbols tab, you’ll notice that the paragraph already has a shortcut key assigned (boxed in red above). If that one works for you, just make a note of it. If you want to designate something easier to remember, click the Shortcut Key button.
- Click your cursor into the Press New Shortcut Key field and press the key combination you want.
- If that shortcut key combination is already assigned to a Word function, it’ll appear next to Currently Assigned. If that’s not something you care about overwriting …
- … click the Assign button. That key combination will move into the Current Keys field.
- Click Close to finish.
Alternative: Using AutoCorrect to Insert Symbols into Your Text
“If the whole shortcut key thing is a bit physically awkward for you, there’s an alternative. AutoCorrect will enable you to assign a series of characters you can type that Word will automatically replace with other text.” If you’ve ever worked with text expanders, you know the drill.
Select the symbol you want in the Symbol dialog box, but instead of clicking Shortcut Key, click AutoCorrect.
Because I had the paragraph symbol selected, Word automatically populated the With field with it. I typed “2” into Replace (using “(p)” could yield some undesirable results in a numbered list). To save it, press Add, then OK.
From now on, I can type “3”, and Word will insert a paragraph symbol automatically: