How to Extract the First Word of a String in Microsoft Excel

By Steve McDonnell

To extract the first word in a character string in Excel, use the FIND function to locate the position of the first space then subtract one from that position value to determine the word length. Next, use the LEFT function to extract characters equal to the length. Finally, use the IFERROR function to return the entire cell contents if an error occurs, because a cell with a single word has no spaces, and the FIND function will result in an error.

Entering the Formula

If the string is located in cell A1, type the following formula in cell B1:=IFERROR(LEFT(A1, FIND(" ", A1)-1), A1)

Adjusting the Column Width

If the solution you calculated in cell B1 cuts off the string in cell A1, click the letter "A" to highlight the column and double-click the bar that separates columns A and B to automatically adjust the width of column A. Click the letter "A" to highlight the column again, click the right mouse button, choose the "Alignment" tab, check the "Wrap Text" box and choose OK to display the character string in cell A1 using more than one line. Adjust the width of the column by moving the bar that separates columns A and B.