Typing x_bar, y_bar, q_hat, etc., in Microsoft Word

If you teach statistics, you know the pain of typing x_bar, y_bar, etc. You can use Microsoft Equation Editor, but it has two issues: it’s cumbersome, and not all versions of Word handle the equations equally (some as text, some as pictures). You can type “x_bar” but that’s just not pretty. I had not found a way to get around this and was resigned to typing out the variable names.

Until I found this tip.

Microsoft Word does have a way of creating statistical symbols. The key is to use the Arial font and the capability called “combining diacritics” (look that up). Here is how it works.

  1. Open Microsoft Word. I tested this in 2016 and 2013. The tip should work in older versions as long as it has the Arial font (it should, as it is a common font).
  2. Choose “Arial” as your font.
  3. Let’s do p_hat. Type in “p” by itself, like this:


  4. Next, go to Insert -> Symbol. Look for More Symbols. Make sure the font is Arial. Then look for and select the hat symbol. The character code is 0302. Click Insert, Close.
  5. You will go back to the editing mode and you will see the p with the hat. You can do the same for the bar. The character code is 0305.

Even if your other text is in a different font, when it comes to typing out statistical symbols, you just go back to Arial and do the steps above, and return the original font.

It’s beautiful.


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