Why Can't I See All My Text in an Excel Cell?

By Aaron Parson

When text in Excel runs into another cell, it cuts off. Fix the problem by adjusting the width, wrapping text or merging cells.

When a line of text doesn't fit a single cell in Excel 2013, it flows atop adjacent cells. Should another filled cell get in the way, however, the text cuts off abruptly at that cell's border. To work around the problem without altering the text itself, change the cell size, merge cells or wrap the text.

Tip

If you can't see the end of a line of text in the formula bar -- rather than in the cell itself -- click the down arrow at the end of the formula bar to expand the bar.

Cell Size

Excel cells default to 80 pixels wide by 24 pixels tall, which is usually enough to display a value, but cramped for long strings of text. In columns that contain text, expand the cell width to make more room.

Expanding cell width

Drag the edge of the column on the heading row -- by the column letter -- to the right. Drag until the vertical dotted line is past the longest line of text in the column, and then release the button.

Tip

Set the width automatically by double-clicking the edge of the column instead of dragging it.

Merge Cells

Merging cells combines two or more cells into one larger cell. Merge cells instead of changing the column width when you want only one row to have extra width.

Merge & Center

Select the cells you want to merge and click Merge & Center on the Home tab. To merge without centering, open the drop-down menu and choose Merge Cells instead, or change the alignment after merging.

Warning

  • Merged cells don't always behave as expected. For example, referencing a merged cell only works if you use the location of the top-leftmost cell in the merged set.
  • Cutting and pasting (or dragging) merged cells often causes trouble. To successfully move a merged cell, cut it, paste it somewhere far away from other filled cells, then cut it again and paste it back where you actually want it.

Wrap Text

Wrapping text prevents cell text from overflowing out of a cell horizontally, just like how Microsoft Word prevents text from overflowing off the right side of a page.

Wrapping text

Select the cell with overflowing text -- or an entire column -- and click Wrap Text on the Home tab. Excel adds line breaks where needed and expands the selected cell's height to fit the text. Adjust the column's width as desired, and Excel updates the wrapping automatically.

Tip

Press Alt-Enter while typing to add a manual line break within a cell.

Warning

Because wrapping text makes rows taller, it leaves a lot of blank space in columns without much text. Try adjusting font sizes and alignments to alleviate the negative effect. In particular, setting both Middle Align and Center helps sparse cells look better.