How to Wrap Text and Formulas on Multiple Lines in Excel

Wrapping Text and Formulas in Excel
© Ted French

Excel's wrap text feature is a handy formatting tool that allows you to control the look of cell entries (also called labels) and headings in a worksheet.

Most of the time, you'll use it as an alternative to widening worksheet columns. By wrapping the contents of a cell, you can make all of its contents visible without adding to the overall width of the worksheet.

A second use for wrapping text is to break, long convoluted formulas onto multiple lines in cells or in the formulas bar so they're easier to read and edit.

Methods Covered

As with most tasks in Microsoft programs, there's more than one way of accomplishing this one. These instructions cover two ways to wrap text in a single cell:

  • using a keyboard shortcut
  • using the Wrap Text option on the Home tab of the ribbon
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Using shortcut keys to wrap text as you type

The shortcut key combination for wrapping text in Excel is the same one used to insert line breaks (sometimes called soft returns) in Microsoft Word: Alt + Enter.

Example: Wrap text as you type

  1. Click on the cell into which you'd like to enter text.
  2. Type the first line of text.
  3. Press and hold down the Alt key on the keyboard.
  4. Press and release the Enter key on the keyboard without releasing the Alt key.
  5. Release the Alt key.
  6. The insertion point should move to the line below the text just entered.
  7. Type the second line of text.
  8. If you wish to enter more than two lines of text, continue to press Alt + Enter at the end of each line.
  9. When you've entered all the text, press the Enter key or click to move to another cell.
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Using shortcut keys to wrap existing text

Shortcut keys work for existing text, too:

  1. Click on the cell containing the text.
  2. Press the F2 key or double-click on the cell to place Excel in Edit mode.
  3. Click or use the arrow keys to move the cursor to the location where the line is to be broken.
  4. Press and hold down the Alt key.
  5. Press and release the Enter key without releasing the Alt key.
  6. Release the Alt key.
  7. The line of text should split onto two lines in the cell.
  8. To break the same line of text a second time, move to the new location and repeat steps 4 to 6.
  9. When you're finished, press the Enter key or click on another cell to exit Edit mode.


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Using shortcut keys to wrap formulas

You can use the Alt + Enter shortcut key combination o wrap or break long formulas onto multiple lines in the formula bar, too.

The steps are the same as those above, depending on whether the formula is already present in a worksheet cell or you're breaking it into multiple lines as you type.

You can break existing formulas onto multiple lines in the current cell or in the formula bar above the worksheet.

If you use the formula bar, you can expand it to show all lines in the formula, as shown in the image above.

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Using the ribbon option to wrap text

As an alternative to using shortcut keys, the ribbon presents a wrapping option, too:

  1. Click on the cell or cells containing the text to be wrapped onto multiple lines
  2. Click on the Home tab.
  3. Click on the Wrap Text button on the ribbon.
  4. The labels in cell(s) should now be fully visible, with the text broken into two lines or lines with no spillover into adjacent cells.