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: Capitalizing Just a Surname.

Capitalizing Just a Surname

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 16, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Cheryl is using a worksheet that has, in column A, client names in the format "Smith, Jane." She would like to capitalize only the surname, as in "SMITH, Jane", leaving the rest of the name unchanged.

If there is one and only one comma that separates the surname from the first name, you can create a formula to do the conversion. Assuming the name is in A1, the formula would be:


If you are using Microsoft 365, you can use a more robust formula that checks to see if the name being evaluated includes a comma:


If it does not, then the original name, unchanged, is returned by the formula.

If you prefer to not use a formula (which may mess up the look of your worksheet), you could also use a macro to convert the names, in place. Consider the following:

Sub CapitalizeSurnames()
    Dim rCell As Range
    Dim iComma As Integer
    For Each rCell In Selection
        iComma = InStr(rCell, ",")
        If iComma > 0 Then
            rCell = UCase(Left(rCell, iComma - 1)) & _
              Mid(rCell, iComma)
        End If
    Set rCell = Nothing
End Sub

Simply select the cells that you want to convert (such as those in column A) and then run the macro. It makes the conversion to the names in the cells.


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 (12639) 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: Capitalizing Just a Surname.

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 nine minus 5?

2023-09-22 11:13:01

Willy Vanhaelen

@J. Woolley
Oops! I know that with the Worksheet_Change event Sub you often must disable events but as I made this UDF in a hurry, I forgot. :-( This is not an excuse because VBA doesn’t “forget” anything and I should not post a macro without thoroughly testing it.

For your remarks 2 and 3. You are of course right but one is not supposed to enter a formula in a column that must have only names in it. The purpose of the UDF is to enable you to enter new names in a list all lower case, one by one, transforming the surname automatically in upper case.

2023-09-20 15:39:13

J. Woolley

@Willy Vanhaelen
I posted a similar event procedure on the same day here:
Therefore, I noticed some issues with your procedure:
1. You need to disable events before changing Target; otherwise, the event procedure will repeat many times (46) for that Target.
2. If you enter a formula in column A that results in text with a comma, that formula will be replaced by a constant equal to the modified result.
3. If you copy N rows of names and paste them into column A, when the first name includes a comma it gets modified and duplicated in N rows of column A; otherwise, the N rows are pasted without change.
Here is an improved version of your procedure:

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
    Dim NameCells As Range, cell As Range, valu As String, iComma As Integer
    Set NameCells = Range("A:A") 'adjust as requuired
    For Each cell In Target
        If Not (Application.Intersect(cell, NameCells) Is Nothing _
            Or cell.HasFormula) Then
            valu = cell.Value
            iComma = InStr(valu, ",")
            If iComma > 0 Then
                valu = UCase(Left(valu, iComma - 1)) & Mid(valu, iComma)
                Application.EnableEvents = False
                    cell.Value = valu 'low risk of error
                Application.EnableEvents = True
            End If
        End If
    Next cell
End Sub

2023-09-17 13:56:54

Willy Vanhaelen

Here is a macro that does the capitalization at the moment you enter the name (for column A):

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
If Left(Target.Address, 3) <> "$A$" Then Exit Sub
Dim iComma As Integer
iComma = InStr(Target(1), ",")
If iComma = 0 Then Exit Sub
Target = UCase(Left(Target(1), iComma - 1)) & Mid(Target(1), iComma)
End Sub

Change "($A$)" according to the column letter(s) you are using.

2023-09-16 10:09:49

J. Woolley

I believe the LET function is in Excel 2021 and later. Since Excel 365 is always later, I like to reference Excel 2021+ as shorthand when discussing such functions. And I encourage anyone how is serious about Excel to upgrade to Excel 2021+.

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