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TECHNOLOGY Q&A

Excel at hyphen removal

 

By J. Carlton Collins
June 2013

Q: I have an Excel worksheet containing hundreds of Social Security numbers, and I want to remove the hyphens. Can you tell me how this can be done?

A: I can think of two ways to remove hyphens from Social Security numbers in Excel.

Find and Replace method. Select the data containing the Social Security numbers, then from the Home tab’s Editing group, click on Find & Select and select Replace. Enter a hyphen in the Find what text box and leave the Replace with text box blank. Click the Replace All button. (Note: It is possible that your Social Security numbers don’t contain hyphens. Instead they may contain “em” or “en” dashes, but most computer keyboards (especially on laptops) lack those symbols. If this is the case, highlight a cell containing a Social Security number, press the F2 key to enter edit mode, then highlight one of the em or en dashes and press Ctrl+C to copy. Then, when using the Find and Replace method described above, alter the instructions as follows: Instead of entering a hyphen, select the Find what text box and press Ctrl+V to paste an em or en dash into that field.)

Formula methods. You can remove unwanted hyphens using the Substitute function, or a combination of the Left, Mid, and Right functions; both solutions are illustrated in column C in the screenshot below.

(If necessary, use the trick described in option 1 above to copy and paste em or en dashes into your Excel formulas as needed.)

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