Remove Text in Excel Without Macros

One of the benefits to having an Excel website is the interesting questions that I get in my email. I can’t help with every request, but some lead to blog posts or articles on my Contextures website.

Last week, someone asked how to clean up a column of text, by doing the following:

  • Remove all text AFTER a colon “:”, including the colon
  • Remove all text BEFORE any instance of “of” E.g., “Law Offices of”
  • Remove all text AFTER a dash “-”, including the dash?

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What would you do? My first thought was Text to Columns – the text strings could be split at a colon or dash. It wouldn’t help with the “of” problem though, without a few extra steps.

Use a Wildcard

After thinking about this for a couple of minutes, I realized that Find and Replace would do a much better job than Text to Columns. You can use an asterisk (*) wildcard in the Find string, and that makes it very flexible.

The * wildcard represents any number of characters, and you can use it anywhere in the Find string.

First, I want to remove any colon, and all the characters after the colon.

  • Select column A, and use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + H to open the Find and Replace window.
  • In the Find box, type a colon and an asterisk (Shift + 8): :*
  • Leave the Replace With box empty, because you just want to remove the characters, not replace them with anything
  • Click Replace All

Use Spaces With the Wildcard

Follow the same steps to remove hyphens, and any text after them. We want to remove the space too, so include that.

  • In the Find box, type a space and hyphen, followed by an asterisk: [space]-*

Follow the same steps to remove the word “of”, and any text before it. Be sure to include space characters before and after the “of”.

  • In the Find box, type an asterisk, followed by a space, “of” and another space : *[space]of[space]

The Cleaned Up Text

After a few seconds of finding and replacing, the text is cleaned up. If you have to do this type of cleanup frequently, you could create a macro to do the steps. However, for a one-off job, this is a quick way to clean things up.

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For other ways to work with text, you can visit the TEXT function page on my website.

Watch the Video

To see the steps for using a wildcard with Find and Replace, please watch this short video.

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