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: Maintaining Text Formatting in a Lookup.

Maintaining Text Formatting in a Lookup

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 25, 2014)

1

When you enter text into a worksheet, you can format that text in either of two ways: You can format all the text in the cell, or you can format just some of the text in the cell. Formatting all the text should be familiar to all readers, as it is quite common to make the contents of a cell bold or change its font.

Formatting some of the text within a cell may not be done as often, but it is just as easy to do as formatting the entire cell. All you need to do is, while editing the cell contents, select the text you want to format and then apply the desired formatting properties. For instance, you could make some portion of the text bold or some of it underlined. You can also change the font used by certain characters in a cell, which is often done to insert symbols in a cell or to use foreign-language characters within your regular text.

While formatting can make your information more understandable, and may in fact be required for your particular worksheet, there are some drawbacks. One of the biggest drawbacks is when you use formulaic references to the formatted text. Excel will only copy the bare contents of the referenced cell, not the formatting applied to text within that cell.

As an example, suppose you have a cell that contains Greek letters interspersed within the text of a cell, and you reference that cell in a formula such as the following:

=HLOOKUP(B7,A16:A29,C3)

Excel dutifully copies the contents of the cell, returning as the results of the formula, but it does not copy the formatting of the cell being referenced. This behavior is not limited to lookup functions, either; Excel behaves this way even with simple formulas, such as =B7.

There is no way around this drawback, short of writing a rather complicated macro that copies formats as well as content. Macros that copy cell formatting have been covered in past issues of ExcelTips; macros that copy individual character formatting within a cell are complex enough that they are beyond the scope of ExcelTips itself.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8107) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Maintaining Text Formatting in a Lookup.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Button for Leaving Full-Screen Mode

If you display your document in full-screen mode, there are a couple of ways you can get back to normal mode. One method ...

Discover More

Opening Multiple Workbooks at Once

Need to open a bunch of workbooks from within Excel? It's easy to do when you construct a selection set in the Open ...

Discover More

Selecting a Cell in the Current Row

Macros often need to select different cells in a worksheet. Here's how you can use macro commands to change which cell is ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Creating 3-D Formatting for a Cell

The formatting capabilities provided by Excel are quite diverse. This tip examines how you can use those capabilities to ...

Discover More

Identifying Merged Cells

Merging cells is a common task when creating worksheets. Merged cells can play havoc with the normal functioning of some ...

Discover More

Converting Dates to Text

Need to use a date as part of a larger string of text? Here are some handy ways to go about the process.

Discover More
Subscribe

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

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

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 4 - 0?

2014-01-27 09:43:40

Bryan

I've said it before (last time this tip was published...) and I'll say it again: The obvious solution to the problem is this: don't allow formatting to carry data.

I'll grant, though, that this doesn't cover 100% of situations.


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
Subscribe

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.