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. ...

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