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: Pasting Leading Zeroes.

Pasting Leading Zeroes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 14, 2020)

Some data requires leading zeroes. The first example that comes to mind is ZIP Codes, in which some have leading zeroes. There are other examples, as well. For instance, you may have a chart of accounts in which general ledger account numbers start with leading zeroes.

When you paste information into Excel, it normally tries to "parse" the data and put it in a format that it can work with. When you paste data that have leading zeroes, and the data could reasonably be construed as numbers, then Excel strips the leading zeroes from what you are pasting. For instance, 0012387 become a number value, 12387.

What if you want to retain the leading zeroes? All you need to do is make sure that the target cells—the ones that will receive the data being pasted—are formatted as text. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the cells that will hold the data you are going to paste.
  2. Choose the Cells option from the Format menu. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Number tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  5. In the Category list, choose Text.
  6. Click on OK.

Whatever you now paste into the formatted cells is assumed to be text, and Excel will leave your leading zeroes exactly as you expect them.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2752) 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: Pasting Leading Zeroes.

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. ...

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