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: Extracting First and Last Words.

Extracting First and Last Words

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 30, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


2

Reggie has a cell that contains three or more words. (The number of words could vary.) He needs a formula that allows him to extract either the first word of the cell or the last word of the cell. For instance, if the cell contains the phrase "Reggie was here in 2022", then he needs a formula to extract "Reggie" and one to extract "2022".

You can extract both words using formulas. Extracting the first word is relatively straightforward. All you need to do is find the location of the first space in the phrase, then extract whatever is to the left of it. If one presumes that the phrase is in A1, one can use the formula:

=LEFT(A1,FIND(" ",A1)-1)

To extract the last word, you'll need a slightly different formula:

=TRIM(RIGHT(SUBSTITUTE(TRIM(A1)," ",REPT(" ",255)),255))

This formula changes the spaces into strings of 255 blanks. Then it finds the last 255 characters and trims the characters to the left, leaving the last word.

You can also, if you prefer, create user-defined functions to grab the words you want. Grabbing the first word is easy:

Function FirstWord(c As String)
    Dim arr

    arr = Split(Trim(c), " ")
    FirstWord = arr(LBound(arr))
End Function

The function uses the Split function to pull apart whatever is in the specified cell, using the second parameter (" ") as the delimiter. Each element in the array (arr) then contains a portion of the original string. In this case what is being returned is the first element (specified by LBound) of the array—the first word.

Since the words from the phrase are being placed in an array, you can use just a slight variation on the function to return the last word:

Function LastWord(c As String)
    Dim arr

    arr = Split(Trim(c), " ")
    LastWord = arr(UBound(arr))
End Function

Note that, essentially, the only real change in the function is the use of UBound instead of LBound. The UBound function specifies the last element of the array. You can use both of these functions in a worksheet in this manner:

=FirstWord(A1)
=LastWord(A1)

If you prefer, you could bypass using the Split function and, instead, use some other string-related functions:

Function GetFirst(c As String)
    GetFirst = Left(c, InStr(c, " ") - 1)
End Function
Function GetLast(c As String)
    GetFirst = Mid(c, InstrRev(c, " ") + 1)
End Function

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11985) 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: Extracting First and Last Words.

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 8 - 3?

2022-08-01 01:36:00

Shadeburst

Yes I know that a cell can hold 32,767 characters but isn't 255 overkill? :)

Flash fill is so powerful at recognizing patterns that usually it will be the optimum solution. Sometimes one or two helper columns may be needed to train Flash Fill.


2022-07-30 11:47:34

J. Woolley

For related discussion, see the following Tip's comments: https://excelribbon.tips.net/T011399_Reversing_Names_In_Place.html


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