Eliminate asterisks from data in Excel

By Kelly L. Williams, CPA, Ph.D.

Q. I have a spreadsheet that has a column of costs. Several of the costs have an asterisk (*) at the end of the cost to indicate it is the most recent cost. How can I delete the asterisk without deleting the entire amount?

A. One of the easiest ways to remove specific text, letters, or symbols from an Excel spreadsheet is to use the Find and Replace feature. For example, if you wanted to remove all hyphens from your spreadsheet, you would click Replace on the Home tab, or Ctrl+H on a PC. Enter the hyphen in the Find what: box and leave the Replace with: box blank, as shown in the screenshot below. Click Replace All, and every instance of the hyphen disappears.

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However, performing these same steps and simply putting an asterisk in the Find what: box would delete all the information in the spreadsheet. This is because the asterisk is a wild card in Excel that represents all possible characters. So, it would interpret that operation as eliminating every character in the spreadsheet.

We can still use the Find and Replace feature to eliminate asterisks from our spreadsheet. But we will need to include the tilde (~) symbol in front of the asterisk in the Find what: box. This will instruct Excel to find the actual asterisks and not interpret the symbol as a wild card. Your Find and Replace window will look similar to the screenshot below.

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You can access a video demonstration below and download the accompanying Excel workbook on eliminating asterisks
here.

— By Kelly L. Williams, CPA, Ph.D.

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