Monday, October 04, 2010

How to Use Escape Characters in Excel

If you want a cell to contain an equal sign (=) or a formula (to show the formula itself in the cell, not the result), you can use an apostrophe in front of the formula, like so:

This even works correctly if another cell calculates the length of this cell, like: =LEN(A1). Excel uses the length without the apostrophe.

This trick is also useful if you are in the middle of writing a formula, but you want to do something else for a moment - just press HOME and add the apostrophe, go do what you needed to do. When you come back you can continue to work on the formula from the same point.
There is no need to escape other characters like spaces, arithmetic operation signs (+ or -), etc.


This might seem like a simple tip but it is amazing how many people who use Excel happily for years then get caught out by this. If you do ever find a need to escape something, then try the apostrophe trick. It should work in all cases.

About the author

Yoav Ezer co-authors the technology and productivity blog Codswallop. He is also the CEO of a company that produces PDF to XLS conversion software.
For more Excel tips from Yoav, join him on Facebook or Twitter


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