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: Specifying a Data Validation Error Message.

Specifying a Data Validation Error Message

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 15, 2017)


If someone tries to enter a value into a cell that has a data validation rule defined, and that value is outside the bounds of the validation rule you have specified, they will see an error message. Excel allows you to modify the default error message to provide meaningful information to the user. When used in conjunction with the input message, data validation becomes a very powerful tool in developing worksheets to be used by others.

  1. Select the cell for which you want to define the messages.
  2. Choose Validation from the Data menu. Excel displays the Data Validation dialog box.
  3. Set any data validation rules desired.
  4. Click on the Error Alert tab. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Error Alert tab of the Data Validation dialog box.

  6. Use the Style drop-down list to select different icons that should appear in the error message dialog box.
  7. Enter a message in both the Title and Error Message fields, as desired.
  8. Click on the OK button.

When the user enters an incorrect value and presses Enter or tries to move to another cell, a dialog box appears with your message.

You should realize that what the user can do once the error message dialog box is displayed is dependent on which error style you chose in step 5. For instance, if you choose the Stop style, the user can only retry their entry or cancel it. (In other words, you are forcing them to put in the right value.) If you choose the Warning style, then they are notified of their error, but they can still continue with the wrong value in the cell. Finally, the Information style is the most gentle reminder of all, and the user can still go on and accept the incorrect entry.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2855) 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: Specifying a Data Validation Error Message.

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. ...


Stopping Enter from being Pressed In a Form

If you create a form using Word, chances are good that you don't want a user to mess up the layout of the form by ...

Discover More

Putting Bold Words in an Index

There are several ways you can create an index in Word, but the first step is always to figure out what should go in the ...

Discover More

Cleaning Old Cookie Sheets

Sometimes baked-on stains can be very stubborn to remove from metal cookware. Here are some ideas that may help get rid ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Limiting Entry of Names

When inputting information into a worksheet, you may need a way to limit what can be entered. This scenario is a prime ...

Discover More

Changing Fonts in Data Validation Drop-Down Lists

The data validation capabilities of Excel allow you to easily create drop-down lists showing what data is acceptable for ...

Discover More

Limiting Input to a Format

When setting up a worksheet for others to use, you might want to make some limitations on what can be entered in certain ...

Discover More

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

View most recent newsletter.


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 6Mpixels. 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 five more than 3?

2017-02-11 09:28:47

Forrest Heath

Can a cell have more than one validation rule? For example, if either "?" or any valid positive number are allowed, can I specify multiple rules?

Something similar to conditional formatting.

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

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.