The degree symbol is used for angles and arcs, temperatures, and the ‘proof’ of alcohol, among other things. You’ll even find it in harmonics. It started as a raised glyph of the digit 0, but best practice in typesetting and design now is to use a true degree symbol designed for the purpose.
The degree symbol is preferred because many fonts style the alternatives in ways that make them look very out of place as a degree symbol.
To Type the Degree Symbol
Insert > Symbol on the ribbon is a fool-proof way to find a degree symbol in MS Word 365. Well, as long as you select the degree symbol and not the masculine ordinal symbol by mistake.
On a Mac, you can also use the keyboard shortcut: opt + shift + 8
Windows users can type the alt code: alt + 248
For XML or HTML, type either ° or ° followed by a semicolon.
To Spot Imposters
Whether it’s because they don’t know how to make a degree symbol or don’t even realize one exists, writers use all sorts of type gymnastics to create something approximating a degree symbol. They’re hard to spot by eye alone; if the writer applied boldface or italics, imposters can be even harder to spot. These tricks can help you find the workaround and make them right:
- Type a fresh and true degree symbol in every instance; delete the original character. (You can turn off tracking while you do this and just leave one note that you’ve done this throughout.)
- Find & Replace all true degree symbols with degree highlighted. Then you know that any symbol not highlighted is an imposter. Fix the imposters, then repeat the F&R to remove the highlighting.
- Change the font to one that treats letters and digits very differently than the degree symbol. (See below.)