Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Ensuring Standard Units During Data Entry.

Ensuring Standard Units During Data Entry

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 4, 2017)

Sharon has a worksheet that she uses to record distances. Several people enter data into the worksheet and some enter the distance in miles (such as 15 m) and others enter the distance in kilometers (such as 28 Km). Sharon wonders if there is a formula she can use to convert whatever is placed into the cell into kilometers so that all answers are the same?

There are formulas you can use to do the conversion, but before getting to them it would be a good idea to consider how you are putting your worksheet together. From a data management standpoint, it is not a good idea to allow people to specify units in the same cell as the value entry. The problem is that you will never be able to trap all the possible user mistakes and typos. For instance, someone could enter 15 miles as one of the following: 15 miles, 15 mile, 15miles, 15mi, 15nile, 15 ni, 15 mu, 15mi, 15mi., etc. The same problem occurs with km entry.

A good idea is to split the value from the units designation. For instance, you could allow someone to put a value into cell B4 and then in cell C4 they could enter a designator as to whether the value represents miles or kilometers. You can use data validation on the cell to limit acceptable choices for their entry. The result is a more "bulletproof" method of data entry.

That being said, let's examine a few ideas for doing your data conversion. Excel provides a cool CONVERT function that allows you to, oddly enough, perform data conversions from one measurement system to another. The formula to convert from miles to kilometers would be as follows:


If you would like to know all the units of measurement you can specify with the CONVERT function, Excel's online help system should be up to the task.

If you use cell C4 to specify a unit of measure (either "mi" or "km"), then the following formula could be used to always make sure that whatever was entered in cell B4 was expressed in kilometers:


If you aren't able to split the units of measurement into a different cell, then you are left to try to do some data conversion on what is entered. The important thing to remember is that whatever is entered is treated by Excel as a text value since it contains non-numeric characters.

Let's assume for a second that someone enters into cell B4 the value "5 mi" without the quote marks. You need to use a formula to strip off the non-numeric characters


The formula looks at the value in cell B4 and specifically examines the two right-most characters, after any spaces in the cell have been removed. If those two characters are "mi" (without the quotes, of course) then the CONVERT function is used to do a conversion on the numeric portion of the cell. If the two right-most characters are anything other than "mi" then the formula simply returns the numeric portion of the cell without any change.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3593) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Ensuring Standard Units During Data Entry.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Vertically Centering Labels

Want the text printed on your labels to be centered vertically? It's not that hard, and this tip shows the easiest method.

Discover More

Changing Label Sizes

Information formatted for one type of label may someday need to be printed on a different type of label. Here's some ...

Discover More

Automatic Text in an E-mail

When creating an e-mail address hyperlink using the Insert Hyperlink dialog box, Excel allows you to enter a subject for ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

AutoFilling Numbers with a Trailing Period

The AutoFill tool is very handy when it comes to quickly filling cells with a sequence of values. Sometimes, however, it ...

Discover More

Deleting All Names but a Few

Want to get rid of most of the names defined in your workbook? You can either delete them one by one or use the handy ...

Discover More

Setting a Default for Shifting when Inserting

When you insert cells into a worksheet, Excel needs to know which direction it should shift the displaced cells. If you ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is five more than 3?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.