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: Removing Dashes from ISBN Numbers.

Removing Dashes from ISBN Numbers

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 19, 2014)

1

Ciaran works in a library, and often has to work with long lists of ISBN numbers in Excel. The numbers must contain either 10 or 13 digits, may contain dashes, and may have leading zeros. He uses text format for cells containing ISBNs in order to keep them intact as text strings. For some purposes, the dashes in the ISBNs have to be stripped out (he uses Find and Replace for this) and that's where the trouble starts. 0-241-95011-2 becomes 241950112 (now it's dropped to 9 digits), and worse, 978-0-00-200784-9 becomes 9.78E+12 (scientific notation). Ciaran can't find any way of working around these two issues, no matter what he does with formatting before or after using Find and Replace to get rid of the dashes.

What is happening is that when you edit the cells, Excel is parsing the cell contents as numbers instead of as text. In this case, the best solution is to make sure that your cell contents are preceded with an apostrophe before you do the Find and Replace to get rid of the dashes. If you have a worksheet that contains a lot of ISBN numbers in column A, you can add the apostrophes with a formula such as the following:

= "'" & A1

You can then copy the results of the formulas and then use Paste Special to paste values back into column A. Each value in column A will then include the apostrophe. When you later perform the Find and Replace, the leading zeroes will still be present and you won't get any attempts at scientific notation.

The reason this works is because the apostrophe is an indicator to Excel that the cell contents should be treated as text. The apostrophe isn't displayed in the worksheet, but it is part of the cell contents, as you can tell by looking at the Formula bar.

Another approach is to bypass using Find and Replace to get rid of the dashes. Instead use the SUBSTITUTE function to remove them, in this manner:

=SUBSTITUTE(A1,"-","")

The SUBSTITUTE worksheet function returns a text value, so any leading zeroes are maintained and Excel doesn't try to convert the numbers to use a numeric format.

If you routinely need to remove the dashes from a range of cells containing ISBNs, you might be better served to use a macro to do the operation. The following macro works upon whatever cells you've selected before running it.

Sub RemoveDashes()
    Dim c As Variant, sISBN As String

    For Each c In Selection
        sISBN = Application.Substitute(c, "-", "")
        c.NumberFormat = "@"
        c.Value = "'" & sISBN
    Next
End Sub

Basically the macro does three things: It removes the dashes, it formats the cell as text, and it places the stripped ISBN back in the cell with an apostrophe before it.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9927) 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: Removing Dashes from ISBN 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

Printing Comments

Comments are a great way to share, well, comments with other people looking through your documents. If you want to print ...

Discover More

Defining a Shortcut for a Macro

You can make running macros very easy if you assign a shortcut key to the macro. This tip demonstrates how easy it is to ...

Discover More

Deleting Tab Stops

Need to delete some tabs tops in a paragraph? It's easy to do using the Tabs dialog box, as described in this tip.

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)

Concatenating Values from a Variable Number of Cells

Excel makes it easy to concatenate (or combine) different values into a single cell. If you need to combine a different ...

Discover More

Combining Cell Contents

Excel allows you to easily combine text together. The key is to understand and use the ampersand operator.

Discover More

Determining Winners, by Category

Do you need to determine the top three values in a range of columns? The techniques discussed in this tip will come in ...

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 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 four less than 5?

2014-07-30 19:10:25

David

I like the ="'" & A1 - I found that when starting a new spreadsheet for this purpose I put this formula in column B1
then copy it to however many rows I need for my numbers, since this copies the formula naming the column A in sequential numbers. Then any ISBN number replaced in column A is automatically changed into text in column B and it leaves column A as it originally was entered.
Dave


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.