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: Returning the Left-most Characters.

Returning the Left-most Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 6, 2019)

Sometimes you may need to create a worksheet formula that examines the left-most characters in a different cell. To allow for this need, Excel provides the LEFT worksheet function. You use it by specifying the cell or value to use, along with the number of characters to return. For instance, the following formula returns the three left-most characters in cell A7:

=LEFT(A7,3)

If the value in A7 is not text, then LEFT still treats it as if it is. Thus, if A7 contains 12345, then the above formula returns the text value 123.

If you want to return just the single left-most character, you could use either of the following:

=LEFT(A7,1)
=LEFT(A7)

The second variation works because the LEFT function defaults to 1 for the second parameter.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8806) 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: Returning the Left-most Characters.

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

Using AutoComplete with Disjointed Lists

AutoComplete can help you to more quickly enter information in a worksheet. How it works, behind the scenes, can affect ...

Discover More

Putting Bold Words in an Index

There are several ways you can create an index in Word, but the first step is always to figure out what should go in the ...

Discover More

Converting Imported Information to Numeric Values

If the information you import into Excel is treated as text by the program, you may want to convert it to numeric values. ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Making VLOOKUP Case Sensitive

The VLOOKUP function, like other lookup functions in Excel, is not case sensitive. In other words, it doesn't matter ...

Discover More

Using the FORECAST Function

Excel provides a handy worksheet function that allows you to forecast values based upon a set of known values. This ...

Discover More

The EDATE Function

Want to figure a date a certain number of months in the future or past? The EDATE function may be just what you need for ...

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 five more than 5?

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
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.