Why Are Footnote Numbers in Microsoft Word Not in Superscript?


Microsoft Word offers a way for writers to give credit where credit is due or share where they received their information through its footnote functionality. A footnote is a number, smaller and placed higher than the text it reflects, that corresponds to a list of information on the bottom of the page it appears. While Microsoft Word's default option is to place footnotes in superscript, occasionally the software doesn't recognize a footnote as a footnote or, through user formatting, changes the footnote style.

Footnote Insertion

  • As a Word document is created, you complete the footnote process by clicking the "References" tab at the top of the work area and clicking the "Insert Footnote" button, which looks like an "AB" icon, below the tab on the ribbon. Word automatically inserts the superscript footnote at that time. When you attempt to insert footnotes manually, such as simply typing a "1" after a sentence and setting up the footnotes or endnotes list by hand, Word has no way of knowing the intended number is a footnote and should therefore be rendered in superscript.

User Override

  • Although Word automatically formats footnotes in superscript, it doesn't lock those footnotes into their formatted style. If you override the footnote style by highlighting the footnote along with the text it reflects and changing the size, style or script of the highlighted section, the footnote may be affected as well. This occurs when you change the footnote itself, too. When you highlight a footnote, right-click and click "Font," the "Font" window appears. When the "Superscript" check box is unchecked, even by an accidental flick of the cursor, the superscript for the footnote is removed.

Quick Fix

  • After diagnosing the issue with the footnotes, get them back in superscript style by highlighting the number -- without capturing any characters or punctuation in the highlight -- and right-clicking. Click "Font." On the "Font" window, place a check in the "Superscript" box and the number reformats back to its small, high position.

Footnotes by Hand

  • Another option to place footnotes with exact precision is to create them by hand. Click Word's "Insert" tab. Click the "Draw Text Box" button. Click the first option, "Basic Text Box," which inserts a text box onto the page. Click into the text box and type the number, such as "1." Click a corner of the text box and shrink it until the text box fits just the number. Right-click the border of the text box and click "Format Text Box." Click "No Color" under the "Line" option to remove the text box border. Highlight the number and click the "Home" tab. Click the size for the footnote, which should be several sizes smaller than the type. Drag the text box into place, at an above-right angle, onto the text.

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