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Hash Marks Displayed Instead of Cell Contents

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: Hash Marks Displayed Instead of Cell Contents.

Bob is having some problems getting Excel to display the text within a cell. What is happening is that Excel is displaying a series of # signs instead of the text. He notes that he is not even close to the character limit of the cell.

The answer here depends on what you mean by "the character limit of the cell." Generally, such a statement means that you haven't reached the limit of the text that Excel can store in the cell—1,024 characters. It is important to keep in mind that what Excel can store and what it can display are two different things, as will shortly be discussed. If, however, by "character limit" you mean that the cell is wider than what is stored in the cell, that is a separate issue.

First things first: Excel can store up to 1,024 text characters in a cell, but it can only display up to 255 characters if the cell is formatted as text. If the cell contains more than 255 characters and the cell is formatted as text, then the hash marks are displayed. The solution is to change the format of the cell to general; then the text will display as you expect.

The more common occurrence is to see hash marks displayed when the cell contains a numeric (or date) value. If the cell is too narrow to display the value, then the hash marks are shown. They indicate that an "overflow" condition has occurred and that your value cannot be displayed as you want.

This is particularly common when displaying dates using a format that requires more horizontal space. For instance, if you display a date as "September 22, 2014," that date takes more column width to display than does "9/22/14." The solution is to simply widen the column so that the display doesn't overflow the width.

Dates will also display hash marks if you attempt to display a date value outside the range of dates that Excel can handle (1/1/1900 through 12/31/9999).

You should also note that you might see hash marks appear if you change the size of the font used in a cell. Change the font to a larger size, and Excel may not be able to display the value horizontally. If you can't widen the column then consider making the font smaller so that Excel can make the full value visible.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8441) 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: Hash Marks Displayed Instead of Cell Contents.

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Comments for this tip:

RK    17 Jan 2017, 00:11
Thank You for the help. It sorted out a long standing problem of mine
Caroline    24 Mar 2016, 06:25
Good tip, thank you!
Ian Avery    18 Jan 2016, 07:10
I found this issue in Excel 2007. For a cell with text comments but widening the column was not the solution, instead I had to change the cell formatting type from Text to General.
Noel    17 Dec 2015, 08:04
I've been struggling with this problem for a year. Thanks for a complete fix.
Jason    21 Sep 2015, 19:11
I understand that the hash marks appear after 255 characters when a cell is formatted as 'Text', however why is that the case?
nike    25 Aug 2015, 07:29
thanks a lot, you have just saved me some time
Isabel Cooke    22 May 2015, 08:28
Such a helpful post - thank you very much for this!
deb peck    07 May 2015, 12:24
thank you much help
we are learning here
thank you once again we did it
Shane    05 May 2015, 11:12
Is it possible to format the cell so that i just doesn't diplay the over flow value ex: 2:30pm shown in cell as 2:30?
Rich M    16 Jan 2015, 04:47
Thank you. works a treat!
asifa peter     17 Dec 2014, 11:15
thank you very much .... this info is really useful
John B.    30 Nov 2014, 11:30
Gee thanks I never would've known!
Jim Black    06 Jun 2014, 03:22
Thanks Allen you NAILED it mate!!!

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