Pulling First Letters from Parenthetical Text

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 27, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


Tom has a worksheet that contains quite a bit of text. He needs a way to pull, from any given cell's text, the first letter of each word within parentheses. For instance, if a cell contains "There is a weed (during the spring) that needs to be eradicated", then Tom needs to pull "dts" from that text. He suspects this must be done with a macro but doesn't know where to start.

If you wanted to perform this task manually, it isn't that difficult to accomplish. I'll go through the steps quickly and generally.

Let's assume that your text is in column A and that each cell contains only a single set of parentheses. In this case you could put the following in column B:


Even though I've broken the formula to two lines here, remember that it is a single formula and should be entered as such. Copy it down as many cells as necessary. What you end up with in column B is the text contained with the first set of parentheses (if any) if the cell.

Next, select all the cells in column B, press Ctrl+C, and then use Paste Special to paste values back into those cells. This gets rid of the formulas but leaves the extracted parenthetical text.

Now the cells in column B should still be selected. You want to use the Text to Columns wizard (from the Data tab of the ribbon) to split the words out into individual cells. This is easy to do using a space as a delimiter in the wizard. After doing this, you end up with a single word in each column starting with column C.

Now, in the first column that doesn't have any words in it (let's say that is column J) you would enter the following formula:

=LEFT(TRIM(C1),1) & LEFT(TRIM(D1),1) & LEFT(TRIM(E1),1)
& LEFT(TRIM(F1),1) & LEFT(TRIM(G1),1)) & LEFT(TRIM(H1),1)
& LEFT(TRIM(I1),1)

Again, this is a single formula even though it is shown here on three lines. This results in your desired first letters in column J.

Obviously, this process is "doable" if you only need to pull the letters every once in a while. If you need to do it more often, then you would be better served to rely on a user-defined function to do the work for you. The following is a simple one that will work just fine:

Function PickInitials(sRaw As String) As String
    Dim sTemp As String
    Dim J As Integer
    Dim Wds() As String

    sTemp = ""
    J = InStr(sRaw, "(")
    If J > 0 Then
        sTemp = Mid(sRaw, J + 1)
        J = InStr(sTemp, ")")
        If J > 0 Then
            sTemp = Left(sTemp, J - 1)
        End If
        Wds = Split(sTemp)

        sTemp = ""
        For J = 0 To UBound(Wds)
            sTemp = sTemp & Left(Trim(Wds(J)),1)
        Next J
    End If
    PickInitials = sTemp
End Function

To use the function, all you need to do is to use the following in a cell:


The function will work just fine if there is no parenthetical text in the cell, if there is only an opening parenthesis, and it will not be thrown by multiple spaces between words. The function retains the capitalization of the initial letters. If you want it to return all the letters as lowercase, you could change the final line of the macro to this:

    PickInitials = LCase(sTemp)

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13622) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365.

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 three more than 9?

2019-02-16 15:02:52


Good solutions, but the first solution has a manual step in between that can be avoided thus:
C1: =0
D1: =SEARCH(" ",$B1,C1+1)
E1: =SEARCH(" ",$B1,D1+1)
F1: =SEARCH(" ",$B1,E1+1)
G1: =SEARCH(" ",$B1,F1+1)
and so on, for a "reasonable number of columns)
Z1: =IFERROR(MID($B1,C1+1,1),"")
and so on, depending on the last "reasonable" column used above

Example values with the above formulae:
A1: There is a weed (during the spring that needs) to be eradicated Z1: dtstn
A1: There is a weed (during the spring that) needs to be eradicated Z1: dtst
A1: There is a weed during the spring that needs to be eradicated Z1:

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