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: Maintaining Text Formatting in a Lookup.

Maintaining Text Formatting in a Lookup

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 25, 2014)

When you enter text into a worksheet, you can format that text in either of two ways: You can format all the text in the cell, or you can format just some of the text in the cell. Formatting all the text should be familiar to all readers, as it is quite common to make the contents of a cell bold or change its font.

Formatting some of the text within a cell may not be done as often, but it is just as easy to do as formatting the entire cell. All you need to do is, while editing the cell contents, select the text you want to format and then apply the desired formatting properties. For instance, you could make some portion of the text bold or some of it underlined. You can also change the font used by certain characters in a cell, which is often done to insert symbols in a cell or to use foreign-language characters within your regular text.

While formatting can make your information more understandable, and may in fact be required for your particular worksheet, there are some drawbacks. One of the biggest drawbacks is when you use formulaic references to the formatted text. Excel will only copy the bare contents of the referenced cell, not the formatting applied to text within that cell.

As an example, suppose you have a cell that contains Greek letters interspersed within the text of a cell, and you reference that cell in a formula such as the following:

=HLOOKUP(B7,A16:A29,C3)

Excel dutifully copies the contents of the cell, returning as the results of the formula, but it does not copy the formatting of the cell being referenced. This behavior is not limited to lookup functions, either; Excel behaves this way even with simple formulas, such as =B7.

There is no way around this drawback, short of writing a rather complicated macro that copies formats as well as content. Macros that copy cell formatting have been covered in past issues of ExcelTips; macros that copy individual character formatting within a cell are complex enough that they are beyond the scope of ExcelTips itself.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2318) 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: Maintaining Text Formatting in a Lookup.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Copying Headers and Footers

Need to get headers and footers from one document to another? You can use the steps in this tip to help make quick work of ...

Discover More

Changing Paragraph Order

Want a quick way to rearrange entire paragraphs of your document? You can easily do it by using the technique described here.

Discover More

Inserting Workbook Comments Into a Cell

One of the pieces of information that Excel can maintain relative to a workbook is a set of comments of your choice. There is ...

Discover More

Program Successfully in Excel! John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Extracting Street Numbers from an Address

Want to know how to move pieces of information contained in one cell into individual cells? This option exists in using ...

Discover More

Non-adjusting References in Formulas

Sometimes making sure that a reference in a formula doesn't get changed is not as simple as putting dollar signs in front of ...

Discover More

Stopping a Formula from Updating References

Insert or delete a column, and Excel automatically updates references within formulas that are affected by the change. If you ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 6 - 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.