How Do I Use a Letter to Represent a Value in Excel?

By Carol Finch

Finding and using the same numbers repeatedly in Excel can be time-consuming, but there are a couple of ways to automate the process. The Name tool allows you to create shortcuts to enter data when you type an **= sign** followed by a letter. However, this doesn't work with **C** or **R**, which Excel reserves for its own shortcuts. If you need to use these letters, or want to work with existing data in your worksheet, use the LOOKUP function to create a formula to insert values when you want to use them.

Using a Name to Represent a Value

Step 1

Open the **Formulas** tab. Select **Name Manager** and then **New**.

Step 2

Type **A**, or the letter you want to use as a value, in the **Name** box. Open the **Scope** drop-down menu and choose where you want to use the name. You can apply names to the whole workbook or to individual sheets.

Step 3

Set the letter's value in the **Refers To** box. You can create a value from data in a cell in the worksheet or you can add your own number. By default, Excel puts a reference to the currently selected cell in the box. If this contains your value, keep the default. To use a different cell, select the reference in the box and click your new cell to make the switch. To set your own value, delete the cell reference and enter your number in the box. Select **OK** and then **Close**.

Step 4

Select a blank cell in your worksheet to test that the name works. Type **=A**. You must use the *=* sign before the letter or the name won't work. You should see a drop-down menu with your name letter at the top. Select it or press the **Enter** key and the number you set as the value will appear in the cell.

Use LOOKUP to Create Letters and Values

Step 1

Type **Letter** and **Value** as headers in columns A and B in your worksheet. Enter your letters in column A and their values in column B. If your data is not in ascending (lowest to highest) order, select it. Open the **Data** tab and use the **Sort A to Z button** to sort it.

Step 2

Select an empty cell into which you want to add a letter value and type or paste **=LOOKUP("",A2:B6)** into the formula bar, where *A2* and *B6* define the range of data you want to search. Your data should have a line around it, showing the range in the formula. If this line doesn't contain all your letters and values, use the squares at the corners of the line to drag it over them.

Step 3

Press the **Enter** key. The cell you've selected will contain **#N/A** because you haven't told Excel which letter to search for. Go to the formula in the bar, click between the quotation marks and type the letter **C**. Your formula should now read: **=LOOKUP("C",A2:B6)**. Press **Enter** and the value of the letter. The value of C, 750, appears in your cell. To use values for another letter in your table, replace the **C** with the appropriate letter. For example, to insert the value of B in a cell, you would use **=LOOKUP("B",A2:B6)**.

Tips & Warnings

  • Names in Excel aren't case sensitive so you can use uppercase or lowercase letters when you create or apply them.
  • If you use a cell to create a name value or use LOOKUP to search for existing data, the value updates automatically if you change the contents of the cell. If you set your own value in a name, you must update it manually in "Name Manager" to change it.
  • Although you can't add a "C" or "R" as a name in Excel, you can bypass the block if you add another letter or symbol. For example, "CA" or C\" works.
  • You can create names from words as well as letters. These must start with a letter, underscore or backslash. Excel doesn't recognize spaces in names, so separate words with an underscore or period.
  • You can store your LOOKUP data table anywhere in your worksheet, but check that its table reference is correct in the formula bar if you move it.
  • You can only use names in the workbook or worksheet in which you set them up; the LOOKUP function works in the worksheet containing the underlying data.
  • LOOKUP may not return accurate results if your data is not sorted in ascending order. (See ref 2, vector form section for ascending order point)