Challenge solution: Why won't Word print the right mathematical symbols?

Learn some possible solutions to last week's Word printing problem - and learn a few ways to skirt the problem if you can't fix the problem right away!

Last week, we presented a Word printing problem. Word's Equation Editor displays mathematical symbols, but occasionally, they don't print correctly. It can be hard to troubleshoot, because sometimes one system prints it correctly and another doesn't! When this happens to a user, there are two things to check: the font and the printer driver.

Office Challenge Solution

First, have the user check the Equation Editor's current font. Make sure that L.C. Greek and U.C. Greek are set to Symbol. If that doesn't fix the problem, the erring printer probably needs an updated printer driver. You can test for this quickly enough by printing to a different printer. If one printer handles it correctly and another doesn't, you know the original printer's the problem (but don't rely on that solely, both printers might need updated drivers!) I suppose it's possible that a printer might be outdated and even with its most recent driver, be unable to handle the symbols - but I've yet to run into that problem.

Prashanth_ramakrishnan and Marguerite13 both suggested converting the Word document to pdf format - a great idea that I hadn't thought of. It won't fix the problem at its source, but you'll have a printed document. Another creative solution came from Agency, who suggested pasting the equation as a picture. It skirts the problem similar to the pdf conversion. Both of these solutions would be helpful when your user is in a hurry and doesn't have time to troubleshoot. Histrion2 was the first to suggest that the printer driver might be the problem. Thanks for the great suggestions - being able to help a user quickly is just as important as solving the actual problem and you offered some great possibilities! Thanks for another great challenge!


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

Editor's Picks