How to Align Text in Excel Cells

By Aaron Parson

Like the text alignment setting in Word, the alignment options in Excel 2010 and 2013 adjust how text fits on the page. While Word's alignment settings only change horizontal alignment, cells in Excel workbooks have a range of alignment options to change the horizontal and vertical alignments, the text orientation and indentation. The basic alignment settings are found on the Home tab, and for advanced features, open the Format Cells window to the Alignment tab.

Step 1

Select one or more cells, and then choose a left, center or right horizontal alignment with the buttons in the Alignment section of the Home tab. After picking an alignment, tweak the position by clicking the nearby "Decrease Indent" or "Increase Indent" buttons.

Step 2

Choose a top, middle or bottom vertical alignment with the buttons at the top of the Alignment section. Excel's default rows are so thin that these alignment settings won't show an effect unless you use small text, so you might need to increase row size to make the alignment visible.

Step 3

Open the "Orientation" drop-down menu and choose an orientation to angle or rotate the text. To return to the default horizontal orientation, click the current orientation a second time.

Step 4

Click the arrow in the corner of the Alignment section to open the Format Cells dialog box and apply less common alignment settings. For example, choose "Center Across Selection" as the horizontal alignment to center all text around the centrally selected cell. Other options include setting the orientation to a specific angle or automatically scaling large text to fit narrow cells with the "Shrink to Fit" checkbox.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some alignment settings block the use of other options. For example, text centered across a selection cannot also rotate. If an option you need appears grayed out, try resetting the horizontal and vertical alignments to standard left/center/right and top/middle/bottom choices.
  • Press "Ctrl-A" to select the entire worksheet, or click a row or column header to select an entire row or column. Setting the alignment on an entire sheet, row or column applies the setting to all future text you type in the selected cells.
  • Check "Merge Cells" in the Format Cells window or click "Merge & Center" on the Home tab to combine multiple cells into one. A merged set of cells can only contain a single value, so it's best to merge cells before entering data.
  • Alignment and orientation settings work the same on numbers in cells as on text.
  • Although the "Decrease Indent" and "Increase Indent" icons display a left and right arrow, respectively, they do not always shift text in the indicated direction. For example, if you right align your text, clicking "Increase Indent" moves it to the left, despite the icon bearing a right arrow.
  • "Shrink to Fit" only works on cells too narrow for the included text. It does not shrink text to fit the vertical size of the row.