Guidelines for organizing and formatting data on a worksheet

Microsoft Office Excel has a number of features that make it easy to manage and analyze data. To take full advantage of these features, it is important that you organize and format data in a worksheet according to the following guidelines.

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Data organization guidelines

Data format guidelines

Data organization guidelines

Put similar items in the same column    Design the data so that all rows have similar items in the same column.

Keep a range of data separate    Leave at least one blank column and one blank row between a related data range and other data on the worksheet. Excel can then more easily detect and select the range when you sort, filter, or insert automatic subtotals.

Position critical data above or below the range    Avoid placing critical data to the left or right of the range because the data might be hidden when you filter the range.

Avoid blank rows and columns in a range    Avoid putting blank rows and columns within a range of data. Do this to ensure that Excel can more easily detect and select the related data range.

Display all rows and columns in a range    Make sure that any hidden rows or columns are displayed before you make changes to a range of data. When rows and columns in a range are not displayed, data can be deleted inadvertently. For more information, see Hide or display rows and columns.

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Data format guidelines

Use column labels to identify data    Create column labels in the first row of the range of data by applying a different format to the data. Excel can then use these labels to create reports and to find and organize data. Use a font, alignment, format, pattern, border, or capitalization style for column labels that is different from the format that you assign to the data in the range. Format the cells as text before you type the column labels. For more information, see Ways to format a worksheet.

Use cell borders to distinguish data    When you want to separate labels from data, use cell borders — not blank rows or dashed lines — to insert lines below the labels. For more information, see Apply or remove cell borders on a worksheet.

Avoid leading or trailing spaces to avoid errors    Avoid inserting spaces at the beginning or end of a cell to indent data. These extra spaces can affect sorting, searching, and the format that is applied to a cell. Instead of typing spaces to indent data, you can use the Increase Indent command within the cell. For more information, see Reposition the data in a cell.

Extend data formats and formulas    When you add new rows of data to the end of a data range, Excel extends consistent formatting and formulas. Three of the five preceding cells must use the same format for that format to be extended. All of the preceding formulas must be consistent for a formula to be extended. For more information, see Fill data automatically in worksheet cells.

Use an Excel table format to work with related data    You can turn a contiguous range of cells on your worksheet into an Excel table. Data that is defined by the table can be manipulated independently of data outside of the table, and you can use specific table features to quickly sort, filter, total, or calculate the data in the table. You can also use the table feature to compartmentalize sets of related data by organizing that data in multiple tables on a single worksheet. For more information, see Overview of Excel tables.

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