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What is the easiest way to superscript text outside of math mode?

For example, let's say I want to write the $n^{th}$ element, but without the math mode's automatic italicization of the th. And what if I still want the n to be in math mode, but the th outside?

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See this column in TUGboat for information about not using a superscript "th" – egreg Mar 8 '12 at 22:41
@egreg Interesting! – Nico May 14 '13 at 15:17
this is so typical of this community, you ask for vertical lines in tables or superscripts and people step up to tell you DONT because style. the writer of the TUGboat article is wrong in claiming superscript ordinal suffixes are solely a 'Victorian fetish' peculiar to English; his text, confessedly a 'rant', is riddled with loaded words like 'obscenity' and 'ilk'. in fact, superscript used to be common in many languages. The rant gives not a single reason, it's just a rant. – flow Dec 22 '14 at 14:51
@flow: I fully agree, in particular because the authors' claims about multi-letter suffixes and endings derived from the alphabetic form being unique to English are rather baseless. – O. R. Mapper Mar 6 at 11:01
@flow I agree too. What I read in the article is: we used superscript form, until we started using clunky devices that couldn't handle it properly. My opinion: now that we have devices that can render superscript beautifully, let's use them again! – Sybren Apr 2 at 13:52

5 Answers 5

up vote 207 down vote accepted

You can use \textsuperscript{th}. It sets its contents in text mode and can be used in math or text mode.

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Actually, this only really works outside math mode. If I try $n^\textsuperscript{th}$, the superscript gets raised too high, creating an awkwardly large space between lines. But $n$\textsuperscript{th} works great--thanks! – jamaicanworm Mar 9 '12 at 0:49
@jamaicanworm: You should use $n\textsuperscript{th}$. – Werner Mar 9 '12 at 0:50
$n^\textsuperscript{th}$ is a double superscript. – Philipp Mar 9 '12 at 0:51
Right! Silly mistake... :) – jamaicanworm Mar 9 '12 at 0:52
@Werner: What is the difference between $n$\textsuperscript{th} and $n\textsuperscript{th}$? Is it the spacing at the end of the inline math environment or why, if else, do you prefer the second one? – strpeter Apr 30 '14 at 8:44

In ConTeXt, you can use


to get the superscripts in text mode.

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For 99% of applications, Werner's answer is good enough. But since Marienplatz has offered a bounty, there presumably is interest in other ways to do this. So here, I show it done with a stack over a null entry. My preamble definition (output on the second line) appears to give the exact same result as \textsuperscript (output on the first line).

But then, I show how both the size of the script as well as the height of it can be simply changed with my stacking approach, shown in \footnotesize (and lowered) in the 3rd line of output, and in \tiny (and raised) in the last line.

While I stick just to the standard text font sizes, it would be trivial to instead use a \scalebox to get exactly the size of script text desired.

If there is a desire to place the script, not at a fixed elevation, but relative to the height of the character being scripted, that is easy too (just ask).


enter image description here

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I am very very sorry for disappointing you. The bounty target has been set in advance. It is for Werner's answer. :-) Anyway, +1 for your solution. – kiss my armpit Oct 26 '13 at 6:53
@Marienplatz Oops. No problem. Thanks for the consideration. – Steven B. Segletes Oct 26 '13 at 12:32

I use $n^{\text{th}}$. It seems to work okay for me.

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@PaulGessler: Agreed, I was too fast in reading... I'll remove my comment – Christian Hupfer Jun 23 at 12:07

The old-school solution:


(TeXbook, Chapter 11)

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