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Entering Dates in Excel

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Entering Dates in Excel.

Dates are a special case in Excel. If you enter information that can be translated as a date (by any stretch of the imagination), then Excel treats it as a date. It converts your data into a serial number that is internally used to represent dates and times. For instance, any of the following entries will be translated to a date by Excel:

  • 12/15
  • 12-15/12
  • 15 Dec
  • December 15, 2012

If you enter the first example, Excel will convert it to a date and display that date as best it can determine. If you leave off the year in your entry, Excel assumes you mean the current year. You could also use dashes instead of slashes and Excel will still figure out you are entering a date.

Regardless of how you type a date, it is converted to a special serial number by Excel and stored internally in that format. How you see the date on your screen is a consequence of how the cell is formatted. Even though Excel stores dates in a standard format internally, they can be displayed using any number of different formats.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2177) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Entering Dates in Excel.

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