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: Counting Asterisks.

# Counting Asterisks

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 5, 2014)

David needs to count the number of asterisks that appear in a range of cells. He notes that COUNTIF appears to assume that * is a wild card character, so it doesn't return the proper count.

There are a number of ways to get results, based upon what it is you actually want to get. Let's assume that you have the following values in cells A3:A8:

• 1234
• abcd
• ab*cd
• ab*c*d
• *
• ***

In these six cells there are a total of seven asterisks. To determine the number of asterisks appearing within the range, you'll need to rely upon an array formula, such as this one:

```=SUM(LEN(A3:A8)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A3:A8,"*","")))
```

Remember to enter the formula with Ctrl+Shift+Enter.

Of course, you might want to count the number of cells in the range that contain a single asterisk instead of the number of actual asterisks. In this case you can actually use the COUNTIF function, provided you know how to put the formula together. First, try this formula:

```=COUNTIF(A3:A8,"*")
```

With the data shown at the beginning of this tip, this formula returns the value 5. This, of course, is wrong. The reason it returns this result is because COUNTIF uses * as a wildcard that means "any text in the cell." Since there are five cells in the range that contain text (non-numeric values), that is the answer returned by the formula.

You might think that if you searched for the ANSI character of the asterisk, instead of the asterisk itself, you could get the correct result. This formula shows this approach:

```=COUNTIF(A3:A8,CHAR(42))
```

This formula also returns the incorrect answer (5). It appears that Excel sees no difference, in application, between searching for * and searching for CHAR(42). Both are still treated as a wildcard.

The solution to this is to remember that you can force Excel to treat the asterisk as an actual character by preceding it with a tilde, character, in this manner:

```=COUNTIF(A3:A8,"~*")
```

This returns a result of 1, which may be surprising. Excel is very literal, however, and your formula asked for a count of all the cells which contain a single asterisk. The correct answer is that only one cell (A7) contains what you asked for. If you want to count all the cells that contain an asterisk anywhere within the cell, then you need to surround the formula with wildcard characters, in this manner:

```=COUNTIF(A3:A8,"*~**")
```

This returns "any text" followed by a literal asterisk followed by "any text." The result is 4, which is the number of cells that contain at least one asterisk.

The concept of using tildes to counteract wildcards is covered in this Knowledge Base article:

```http://support.microsoft.com/kb/214138
```

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9482) 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: Counting Asterisks.

##### 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

Deleting Old Data from a Worksheet

If you keep on-going data in a worksheet, some of your data—over time—may need to be deleted. If you have an ...

Discover More

Undoing Smart Tag Exclusions

Depending on who you ask, Smart Tags can be really cool or really distracting. If you fall on the "cool" side, you may ...

Discover More

Making Sure Word Doesn't Capitalize Anything Automatically

Word, in an effort to be helpful, will often change the capitalization of the words you type. If you tire of Word's ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

Deriving High and Low Non-Zero Values

When analyzing your numeric data, you may need to figure out the largest and smallest numbers in a set of values. If you ...

Discover More

Changing the Reference in a Named Range

Define a named range today and you may want to change the definition at some future point. It's rather easy to do, as ...

Discover More

Calculating Statistical Values on Different-Sized Subsets of Data

Discovering different ways to analyze your data can be a challenge. Here's how to work with arbitrary subsets of a large ...

Discover More
##### Subscribe

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

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. Youâ€™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 4 + 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your commentâ€”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.