How to Put a Bar Over a Letter in Google Docs

790353 How to Put a Bar Over a Letter in Google Docs

Putting a bar or line over a letter or number is useful for indicating averages, phonetic transcriptions, math variables, and more. Google Docs provides a couple easy ways to add a bar over letters.

Insert an Equation

The simplest method is to use the equation editor:

  1. Place your cursor where you want the barred letter.
  2. Click Insert > Equation. This opens an equation text box.
  3. Type \overline, followed by a space.
  4. Type the letter you want to bar. For example, \overline x.
  5. Click outside the text box or press Enter to apply the bar and continue typing normally.

You can bar multiple letters by typing them all after \overline.

Use the Equation Toolbar

Alternatively, you can use the equation toolbar:

  1. Select Insert > Equation to open the equation editor.
  2. In the toolbar, click the Math operations dropdown.
  3. Select the x with bar symbol (x̄).
  4. Type the letter you want to bar after the x̄.
  5. Click outside the text box or press Enter when finished.

Bar Numbers, Words, and Phrases

The equation method works for barring anything, including numbers, words, and phrases:



\overline{sample phrase}

Adjust Position of Bar

You can fine tune the vertical position of the bar using \overline[height]:


Where height is a measurement in ex, em, pt, etc. Play around with different values.

Bar Letters on Mobile

The equation editor isn’t available in the Google Docs mobile app. Instead, insert special characters:

  1. Tap + > Special characters.
  2. Search for “overline”
  3. Tap the Combining overline character.
  4. Type the letter you want to bar.

Why Use Barred Letters

Here are some common uses for barred letters and numbers:

Indicate Averages

Put a bar over a variable to represent its average. For example, \overline x is read “x bar” and refers to the average of x values in a data set.

Phonetic Transcriptions

Bars over letters indicate vowel length in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

Statistics and Math Notation

Bars over variables represent means, vectors, centroids, and other concepts in math and statistics.

Digital Logic and Electronics

A bar over a variable refers to its logical inverse in Boolean and digital logic. For example, \overline A means “NOT A”.


A bar over an element symbol represents a ligand or surface atom.


Bars indicate prosodic features like vowel length.

As you can see, barred letters have diverse applications in academics and technical writing. Keep the equation editor in mind whenever you need this formatting option.

Troubleshooting Tips

  • Make sure regular spaces are used, not non-breaking spaces.
  • Don’t include spaces around \overline.
  • Check that text immediately follows \overline with no spaces.
  • For multiple letters, don’t put spaces between them under the bar.
  • Pressing Enter or clicking out of the text box applies the bar formatting.
  • On mobile, tap the overline special character before entering text to bar.

Formatting Alternatives

In addition to barred letters, Google Docs supports these formatting options:

Text Boxes

Insert a text box using Insert > Drawing > Text box, then type and format text inside it. The box’s border visually separates the text.


Add borders around text with the Borders tool to outline it. Access borders under Format > Borders and lines.

Highlight Color

Change the background color of text to make it stand out. Use the Highlight color button on the toolbar.

Font Styles

Format text as bold, italic, underline, strikethrough, subscript, or superscript using toolbar buttons or keyboard shortcuts.


Adding a bar over letters in Google Docs only takes a few clicks using the equation editor. This unique formatting is handy for marking averages, phonetic transcriptions, academic variables, electronics symbols, and more. Knowing how to quickly bar letters, numbers, and words enables you to add this special notation whenever you need it.

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