Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. 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: Hash Marks Displayed Instead of Cell Contents.

Hash Marks Displayed Instead of Cell Contents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 22, 2018)

1

Bob is having some problems getting Excel to display the text within a cell. What is happening is that Excel is displaying a series of # signs instead of the text. He notes that he is not even close to the character limit of the cell.

The answer here depends on what you mean by "the character limit of the cell." Generally, such a statement means that you haven't reached the limit of the text that Excel can store in the cell—approximately 32,000 characters. It is important to keep in mind that what Excel can store and what it can display are two different things, as will shortly be discussed. If, however, by "character limit" you mean that the cell is wider than what is stored in the cell, that is a separate issue.

First things first: Excel can store about 32,000 text characters in a cell, but it can only display up to 255 characters if the cell is formatted as text. If the cell contains more than 255 characters and the cell is formatted as text, then the hash marks are displayed. The solution is to change the format of the cell to general; then the text will display as you expect.

The more common occurrence is to see hash marks displayed when the cell contains a numeric (or date) value. If the cell is too narrow to display the value, then the hash marks are shown. They indicate that an "overflow" condition has occurred and that your value cannot be displayed as you want.

This is particularly common when displaying dates using a format that requires more horizontal space. For instance, if you display a date as "August 22, 2019," that date takes more column width to display than does "8/22/19." The solution is to simply widen the column so that the display doesn't overflow the width.

If you are using earlier versions of Excel, dates will also display hash marks if you attempt to display a date value outside the range of dates that Excel can handle (1/1/1900 through 12/31/9999).

You should also note that you might see hash marks appear if you change the size of the font used in a cell. Change the font to a larger size, and Excel may not be able to display the value horizontally. If you can't widen the column then consider making the font smaller so that Excel can make the full value visible.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8444) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Hash Marks Displayed Instead of Cell Contents.

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

Converting from Relative to Absolute

Addresses used in a formula can be either relative or absolute. If you need to switch between the two types of ...

Discover More

Creating Usable Figure Captions

Many people add both images and figure captions within text boxes so they can be easily positioned within a document. ...

Discover More

Adding a Tile to the Start Screen

The Start screen can serve as your launching pad for whatever programs you desire. Here's how to add tiles for your ...

Discover More

Program Successfully in Excel! John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Differentiating a Header Row

When you use the sorting tool, Excel tries to automatically figure out if your data includes a header row or not. Here ...

Discover More

Changing Currency Formatting for a Single Workbook

Currency is formatted differently in different corners of the world. Most formatting uses periods and commas to indicate ...

Discover More

Setting Vertical Alignment

Excel allows you to adjust not only the horizontal alignment of values in a cell, but also the vertical alignment. This ...

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 two less than 8?

2018-12-23 06:21:18

Alex B

Another action that can introduce hash marks is to zoom out (reduce the magnification from 100%to something less) fitting more in view by making everything smaller.
An alternative to widening the column or permanently reducing the font size, is to use cell format > alignment > shrink to fit. The font size will then automatically adjust to accommodate the conditions ie no of characters in the cell, column width, amount of zoom applied.


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.