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: Inserting Dashes between Letters and Numbers.

Inserting Dashes between Letters and Numbers

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 3, 2015)

2

Let's say you have a worksheet with lots of product codes in column A. These codes are in the format A4, B12, AD4, etc. Due to a change in the way your company operates, you are directed to change all the product codes so they contain a dash between the letters and the numbers.

There are several ways you can perform this task. If the structure of your product codes is consistent, then inserting the dashes is a snap. For instance, if there will always be a single letter followed by numbers, then you could use a formula such as this:

=LEFT(A1,1) & "-" & RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-1)

Chances are good that your data won't be structured, meaning you could have one or two letters followed by up to three digits. Thus, both A4 and QD284 would both be valid product codes. In this case, a solution formula takes a bit more creativity.

One way to handle it is with an array formula. Consider the following formula:

=REPLACE(A1,MATCH(FALSE,ISERROR(1*MID(A1,ROW(INDIRECT("1:100")),1)),0),0,"-")

If values are in A1-A10, you can put this formula into B1, and then copy it down the column. Since it is an array formula, it must be entered by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Enter. The formula finds the location of the first number in the cell and inserts a dash before it.

Assume, for the sake of example, that cell A1 contains BR27. The innermost part of the formula, INDIRECT("1:100"), converts the text 1:100 to a range. This is used so that inserting or deleting rows does not affect the formula. The next part of the formula, ROW(INDIRECT("1:100")), essentially creates an array of the values 1-100: 1,2,3,...,99,100. This is used to act on each character in the cell.

The next part, MID(A1,ROW(INDIRECT("1:100")),1), refers to each individual character in the string. This results in the array: "B", "R", "2", and "7". Multiplying the array by 1 (the next part of the formula) results in each of the individual characters being converted to a number. If the character is not a number, this conversion yields an error. In the case of the string being converted (BR27), this results in: #VALUE, #VALUE, 2, and 7.

The next step is to apply the ISERROR function to the results of the multiplication. This converts the errors to TRUE and the non-errors to FALSE, yielding TRUE, TRUE, FALSE, and FALSE. The MATCH function looks in the array of TRUE and FALSE values for an exact match of FALSE. In this example, the MATCH function returns the number 3, since the first FALSE value is in the third position of the array. At this point, we essentially know the location of the first number in the cell.

The final function is REPLACE, which is used to actually insert the dash into the source string, beginning at the third character.

As you can tell, the formula to perform the transformation can be a bit daunting to decipher. For those so inclined, it may be easier to just create a user-defined function. The following macro is an example of one that will return a string with the dash in the proper place:

Function DashIn(myText As String)
    Dim i As Integer
    Dim myCharCode As Integer
    Dim myLength As Integer

    Application.Volatile
    myLength = Len(myText)
    For i = 1 To myLength
        myCharCode = Asc(Mid(myText, i, 1))
        If myCharCode >= 48 And myCharCode <= 57 Then
            Exit For
        End If
    Next i
    If i = 1 Or i > myLength Then
        DashIn = myText
    Else
        DashIn = Left(myText, i - 1) & "-" _
          & Mid(myText, i, myLength - 1)
    End If
End Function

The macro examines each character in the original string, and when it finds the first numeric character, it inserts a dash at that point. You would use the function in this way:

=DashIn(A1)

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2613) 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: Inserting Dashes between Letters and Numbers.

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

Random Numbers in a Range

Excel provides several different functions that you can use to generate random numbers. One of the most useful is the ...

Discover More

Adding a Dynamic Total in Your Document

You can use a few bookmarks and an equation field to add a dynamic total anywhere in your document. Once in place, you can ...

Discover More

Converting Numbers to Text

Got some numbers you need spelled out? Here's a handy macro that can convert numbers like "123" to words like "one hundred ...

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Checking for a Value in a Cell

Need to figure out if a cell contains a number so that your formula makes sense? (Perhaps it would return an error if the ...

Discover More

How Many Rows and Columns Have I Selected?

Want a quick way to tell how may rows and columns you've selected? Here's what I do when I need to know that information.

Discover More

Shifting Objects Off a Sheet

One day you are just editing your worksheet like you normally do, then you see an error that says "Cannot shift object off ...

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 for this tip:

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. 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 eight more than 7?

2015-10-04 11:50:58

Willy Vanhaelen

@Rick Rothstein,

This is a very clever solution!
You can even make it a 'one liner' by removing 'Application.Volatile' which isn't really necessary.


2015-10-03 11:16:28

Rick Rothstein

Below is a shorter way to write the DashIn UDF that you posted. The only difference in output between our UDF's is that when an error occurs, your UDF outputs #N/A whereas mine outputs #VALUE!

<pre>
Function DashIn(myText As String)
Application.Volatile
DashIn = Application.Replace(myText, InStr(myText, Val(StrReverse(myText)) Mod 10), 0, "-")
End Function
</pre>


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.

Links and Sharing
Share