Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 25, 2016)

5

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 2016", then he needs a formula to extract "Reggie" and one to extract "2016".

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, and 2016. 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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Checking if a Workbook is Already Open

Knowing of a workbook is already open can be a prerequisite to your macro working correctly. Here's how to check it out.

Discover More

Frequent Workbook Recovery Prompts

When you open a workbook, Excel examines that workbook to make sure it can understand the data it contains. This can lead ...

Discover More

Changing a Chart Title

A good finishing touch for a chart is to make sure it has a descriptive title. Here's how to modify the default title ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Counting Odds and Evens

If you have a series of values in a range of cells, you may wonder how many of those values are even and how many are ...

Discover More

How Operators are Evaluated

Operators are used in formulas to instruct Excel what to do to arrive at a result. Not all operators are evaluated in the ...

Discover More

Formulas Don't Calculate as Formulas

Enter a formula (starting with an equal sign) and you may be surprised if Excel doesn’t calculate the formula. Here's a ...

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 3 + 5?

2016-06-29 16:13:18

Balkee

Brilliant!


2016-06-27 08:21:50

Luis Pazeto

I used to apply this formula to get the last word in a string:

=RIGHT(REPLACE(A10," ","#",LEN(A10)-LEN(REPLACE(A10," ",""))),LEN(REPLACE(A10," ","#",LEN(A10)-LEN(REPLACE(A10," ",""))))-FIND("#",REPLACE(A10," ","#",LEN(A10)-LEN(REPLACE(A10," ","")))))

But the formula shared by Allan is much more simple!


2016-06-27 08:07:20

Luis Pazeto

@williamwclee

The number used can be any higher than the length of last word. But as this length can vary for word to word, 255 was used because a word hardly exceed this limit.

Sorry for my poor english.


2016-06-26 22:44:16

williamwclee

why 255 characters?
is it a max of characters that a cell can hold?


2016-06-26 08:06:38

Willy Vanhaelen

When I read this tip I first thought why not combine the FirstWord and LastWord macros by adding a second argument to indicate what you want. Then it came up to me that the second argument could be used to indicate not only the first or last but any word in the cell. Here it is:

Function GetWord(c As String, Optional x As Integer = 1)
Dim arr
arr = Split(Trim(c))
x = x - 1
If x = -1 Or x > UBound(arr) Then x = UBound(arr)
GetWord = arr(x)
End Function

You use GetWord like this (suposing A1 contains "first second last", without the quotes:
=GetWord(A1) --> first (if you omit the 2nd argument the default is 1)
=GetWord(A1,0) --> last
=GetWord(A1,1) --> first
=GetWord(A1,2) --> second
=GetWord(A1,3) --> last
=GetWord(A1,9) --> last
If the number of the 2nd argument is > than the number of words in the cell the last word is returned.


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.