How to Insert an Arrow in Microsoft Word

By Laurel Storm

Nothing says "this way" quite like an arrow.
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On their own, words can be powerful things, but sometimes you need images or symbols to really get your point across. Whether you're designing a sign or simply showing the relationship between two concepts, adding an arrow to your Microsoft Word document will make things clearer; exactly how you do it, however, depends on your personal preference and the kind of arrow you need, since several different methods exist.


One of the easiest ways of adding an arrow to your document is to simply type it in. As long as the AutoCorrect feature is active, Word will automatically replace certain strings of characters with a single arrow symbol. Typing "-->", for example, will get you a thin black arrow pointing to the right, while typing "<==" will result in a thicker one pointing to the left. To see a list of arrows and other symbols you can type in this manner, click "File | Options | Proofing | AutoCorrect Options." From here, you can also add new entries to the list, which can come in handy if you find yourself frequently using an arrow symbol that is not in it.

Insert Symbol

Select the "Insert" tab, click the "Symbol" button and select "More Symbols." From this window, you can insert any symbol from fonts installed on your computer, including a wide variety of arrows. Simply scroll through the list until you find the arrow you want to insert, double-click it and then click "Close." To make the most out of symbol insertion, select a font that supports a lot of character sets, such as Arial Unicode MS. If you know the character code for the arrow you want, you can type it into the "Character Code" field to skip right to it. To find the character code, search through the list of characters using either the Character Map utility built into Windows or an online character table (see Resources).


If you need more complex or colorful arrows, consider using shapes. Select the "Insert" tab and click "Shapes" to see a list of available shapes, including multiple different arrows. Click an arrow in the list and then click and drag to draw it on your document. Once you've created the arrow, you can apply a variety of colors and effects using the tools available in the "Format" tab, which is only visible while you have a shape selected.


If all else fails and you still can't get the effect you want, you can simply draw an arrow image using image editing software such as Paint, Photoshop or GIMP. This gives you precise control over the look of your arrow. Once you've created your arrow, save the image in a format supported by Word, such as JPG, GIF or PNG, and then add it to your document using the Pictures button on the Insert tab.