The Curious Case of Strikethrough in Word and Excel

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By David Ringstrom, CPA
I often find myself using the strikethrough feature in both Word and Excel to mark items as completed. This feature is fairly straightforward in Word, as a strikethrough icon appears prominently on the Home tab in Word 2007 and later. Conversely, in Excel this feature doesn't have its own icon, but it does have a keyboard shortcut, Ctrl-5. Yet there's no built-in shortcut for strikethrough in Word. In this article, I'll describe a couple of ways that you can streamline access to this – and pretty much any feature – in both Word and Excel.
As shown in Figure 1, the strikethrough feature is a font setting that allows you to draw a line through text. In Word 2007 and later, you can select a block of text and then toggle strikethrough on or off with a mouse click. You can also access this feature from the Effects section of the Fonts dialog box shown in Figure 1. The traditional way to apply strikethrough in Excel involves carrying out steps A through C by way of the Format Cells dialog box.
Figure 1: Two different ways to apply strikethrough in Microsoft Word.
As noted previously, in Microsoft Excel you can bypass the Format Cells dialog box by pressing Ctrl-5. Yet, if you press Ctrl-5 in Word you'll change the line spacing of your paragraph to 1.5 instead of toggling strikethrough on or off. Fortunately, there are two easy ways to force both Word and Excel to use the same shortcut for strikethrough. Further, you can use either of these techniques to unify keyboard shortcuts for any feature that appears in both programs.
Create a Custom Keyboard Shortcut in Word
Microsoft Word offers the useful ability create custom keyboard shortcuts for any of its features. Thus, you can easily reassign Ctrl-5 in Word to the strikethrough feature so that you have a consistent shortcut in both Word and Excel, as shown in Figure 2. 
Figure 2: You can create a custom keyboard shortcut for any feature in Word.
If you later change your mind about a custom keyboard shortcut in Word, repeat steps 1 and 2 and then click the Remove button. The Remove button is disabled in Figure 2 because no keyboard shortcut has been assigned to the strikethrough feature. You can use the technique shown in Figure 2 with virtually any Word feature, even those that appear within a dialog box. Press Ctrl-Alt-+ anywhere in Word, click a command or feature, and then assign the keyboard shortcut of your choice.
Quick Access Toolbar
Although Excel doesn't allow you to remap keyboard shortcuts in the same fashion as Word, you can use the Quick Access Toolbar in Office 2007 and later to create your own keyboard shortcuts. In Word, you can simply right-click on a command and then choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar, as shown in Figure 3. Once a command appears on your Quick Access Toolbar, press the Alt key to reveal its keyboard shortcut. If a feature isn't present in the Ribbon, as with the strikethrough feature in Excel, you can still add the command to your Quick Access Toolbar, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 3: Right-click on any ribbon icon in Office 2007 and later to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar.
Figure 4: There are many hidden commands you can add to the Quick Access Toolbar in Office 2007 and later.
Use these same steps in Microsoft Word to reposition the strikethrough command on your Quick Access toolbar to have the same shortcut in both applications. As an added bonus, you can use this same technique in any Office 2007, 2010, or 2013 application, which includes Outlook, PowerPoint, and Access. 
Read more articles by David Ringstrom. 
About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA, heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.


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Try F4 in Word. :)

Yes, F4 will repeat the action, but won't create the initial strikethrough. Thanks for contributing, though!

does the shortcut work? it didn't work on mine! Do you mean Ctrl and then minus 5 or simply Ctrl and 5.

You have to use the 5 across the top of your keyboard. You may be trying the 5 on your numberpad, which won't work.

command + Shift + X works on mine for strikethrough. On word version 14.3.9

Thanks for contributing. Although that works on the Mac platform, there's not a equivalent keystroke in Windows.

Thank you very much for this short tutorial. I have been using Ctrl+5 for quite some time, but I get sick of doing it that way in Excel. Too difficult to stretch those fingers. Though when adding the command to Quick Access Toolbar, and moving it to "Alt+2" or to the "Alt+3" spot, it make its so much easier. Thank you.

I'm so glad you found my article helpful! The Quick Access Toolbar is one of my favorite features in Excel/Word. I'm constantly rotating icons through there based on whatever repetitive tasks surface on a given day.

Just a tip, if strike-through is needed for sticky notes on Win7, CTRL+T works for me (along with the standard CTRL+B/I/U for bold, italic and underlined).

However, I haven't found an easy shortcut in Outlook 2010 to get strike through format...

Nils, thanks for bringing Sticky Notes to my attention. I wasn't aware of that Windows 7 feature. I don't have Outlook 2010 installed on any of my computers at the moment, but you can add Strikethrough in almost exactly the same fashion as I described above. What's different is Outlook as multiple Quick Access Toolbars, so open an appointment or message window, follow the steps described above to access the More Commands option, and look for Strikethrough in the All Commands list.