How To Stop Excel From Changing Numbers

Productivity Software

Have you ever experienced the frustration of entering a large set of numbers in Excel, only to have the program automatically change them to dates or scientific notation? I certainly have, and it can be a real headache. In this article, I’ll share some tips and tricks for preventing Excel from altering your numbers.

Understanding Excel’s Auto-formatting

Excel has a feature that automatically formats cells based on the content you enter. While this can be helpful in some cases, it can also be frustrating when Excel misinterprets your data. For example, if you enter a long number, Excel might automatically convert it to scientific notation, rendering it unusable for your purposes.

Using the Text Format

One way to prevent Excel from changing your numbers is to format the cells as text before entering the data. By doing this, you are essentially telling Excel to treat the input as plain text, and not to apply any auto-formatting rules.

To do this, select the cells where you’ll be entering your numbers, right-click, and choose “Format Cells.” In the Format Cells dialog box, select “Text” from the Category list, and then click OK. Now, when you enter your numbers, Excel will not try to change them based on its auto-formatting rules.

Using an Apostrophe

Another simple trick to stop Excel from changing your numbers is to precede your entries with an apostrophe. When you do this, Excel will recognize the input as text and will not apply any automatic formatting. For example, if you want to enter the number 123456 as-is, simply type ‘123456 into the cell. The apostrophe will not be visible in the cell, but it will prevent Excel from altering your data.

Using the Paste Special Feature

If you’ve already entered your numbers and Excel has changed them, all is not lost. You can use the “Paste Special” feature to revert the formatting back to the original numbers. Simply copy a blank cell, then select the cells with the altered numbers, right-click, choose “Paste Special,” select “Values,” and click OK. This will paste the actual values without any formatting changes.


Dealing with Excel’s automatic formatting can be a frustrating experience, but with these tips, you can take back control of your data entry. Whether it’s formatting cells as text, using an apostrophe, or utilizing the Paste Special feature, there are several ways to prevent Excel from changing your numbers. By implementing these techniques, you can save yourself time and frustration when working with numerical data in Excel.