Shortcut to insert a symbol in Excel

If you regularly work with Excel and use it to make estimates, reports, quotes etc you may need to make use of symbols that are not available on the keyboard e.g. plus minus ( ± ), copyright ( © ), metres squared ( m² ) etc. What are the ways to enter these symbols, and is there a shortcut to insert a symbol in Excel?

The long way- Use the Symbols button

If you want to insert a plus minus sign on a report, you can go to the INSERT tab and click on the Symbol button. Then choose the symbol you want and click insert and it will be inserted as shown below.

Shortcut to insert a symbol in Excel

Use a shortcut to insert a symbol in Excel- ALT Key

If you have few symbols you use, you can make use of the ASCII codes provided in the symbol dialogue box and use the ALT key.

If we want to insert a copyright sign ( © ), you can look in the Symbol dialogue, click on the copyright sign and change the FROM to ASCII (decimal). Note that in the character code it says 169.

Shortcut to insert a symbol in Excel

You can close the Symbol box now. Go to any cell and

  • hold the ALT key down
  • type a zero (you need to have a leading zero)
  • type the number you saw in the character code
  • press space or enter

So to get a © , you hold ALT and type 0169 and you will get the © symbol.

So some popular symbols and their codes would be:

  • Plus minus ( ± ) = ALT 0177
  • Copyright ( © ) = ALT 0169
  • Metres squared ( m² ) = m and ALT 0178
  • Registered ( ® ) = ALT 0174
  • Degrees ( ° ) = ALT 0176
  • Division Sign ( ÷ ) = ALT 0247
  • Trade Mark ( ™ ) = ALT 0153
  • Bullet Point ( • ) = ALT 0149
  • Euro ( € ) = ALT 0128
  • Pound currency ( £ ) = ALT 0163
  • Yen ( ¥ ) = ALT 0165

Perhaps make a list of the ones you use, print it out, laminate it and put it on your desk for quick reference.

Use the the Auto Correct

If you don’t want to remember all these shortcodes, you can set up the Auto Correct feature in Excel to immediately convert something you type e.g. (c) into  ©.

Go to the FILE tab and choose OPTIONS

Shortcut to insert a symbol in Excel

Under the proofing option, you will see an option for Autocorrect. If you click on this, a list of all the current autocorrects are shown (see below). Note that some of the ones we discussed above are already there. So if you type (c) with a space afterwards, it changes to the copyright symbol. If we want to add our own, we can type into the REPLACE and WITH boxes.

For example if I type +-, I want it to be replaced with the plus minus sign ( ± ) . In the REPLACE box I type +- and in the WITH box I either

  • hold ALT down and type 0177, or
  • copy the symbol you want before you get to this screen and paste it in here

Shortcut to insert a symbol in Excel

Now whenever you type +- with a space after it will change to the plus minus symbol. This is also very useful if you notice that Excel keeps changing what you mean. We have a client called IHS but whenever we type this Excel converts it to HIS. This is where we would correct this.