Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Symbols Convert to Numbers in Excel.

Symbols Convert to Numbers in Excel

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated August 20, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


3

Alan wants to enter a symbol into a cell. (In this case he is entering a tick mark.) When he does this using the Symbol dialog box, the symbol is placed into the cell properly, but as soon as Alan presses Enter to move to another cell, the symbol converts to a number. Alan, of course, wonders why this is happening.

It could be that the cell contents are being modified by some event-driven macro. For instance, there could be a macro that is triggered each time a change is made in the workbook and the macro is making the change to what you are entering. You would only find out if this is the case by doing some digging in the workbook to see if there are any macros there and checking out what they do.

The more likely scenario, however, is that you have a formatting or font problem in the cell where you are entering the symbol. When you use the Symbol dialog box, you are inserting a character into your worksheet. How the character appears depends on the way in which the cell is formatted into which the symbol is being inserted.

Like any other character in a worksheet, a symbol inserted using the Symbol dialog box has a character code associated with it. The code indicates which character from a particular font is displayed. If that code, for instance, is 49 and the font is Wingdings, then the character will look like an open file folder. The same character code in most any other font will produce a number, in this case the number 1.

Thus, if your cell is formatted using the Calibri typeface, then the character codes inserted into the cell will use the characters from that typeface. If you want to use a different typeface, such as Wingdings or some other symbol font for your symbols, then you may need to format the cell to use that font.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11805) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Symbols Convert to Numbers in Excel.

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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What is five more than 4?

2022-08-21 04:37:08

Alex Blakenburg

@J.Woolley
Thanks for responding. I fielded a question on a forum about wanting to pull through a cell with ℃ and H₂O in it, to a chart heading. Neither the degree symbol or the subscript came through correctly using a font dependent symbol but both came through if you used the <win>+Period > symbols tab version.

PS: Thanks for the Period suggestion.


2022-08-20 10:24:25

J. Woolley

@Alex Blakenburg
Thanks. I wasn't aware of that trick. Some of us say "Period" instead of "Full Stop", but the latter is the correct Unicode name. I would add that the dialog box opens with Emoji symbols (on my Win 10), but clicking the Omega icon at the top offers Symbols, then several icons at the bottom present various subsets.


2022-08-20 06:25:41

Alex Blakenburg

A lot of the symbols that are commonly used are available by pressing <Win>+ Full Stop. If you use the symbols from there then you don't have the font issue that is being discussed in this tip.
This is also works if you then want to link the cell with the symbol in it to a Chart Heading. The Insert > Symbol method often has issues with this.


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