How to merge cells in Excel (and why not to)

A common action in Excel is merging cells so that the data is more presentable. To merge cells in Excel it is as easy as

  • highlighting the cells
  • Right click and choose Format Cells
  • Go to the Alignment tab
  • Click Merge Cells

However, we highly recommend that you DON’T use merge cells and rather use the alternate below.

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Why you should NOT use Merge Cells in Excel

The problem with Merge cells is it limits your ability to work with your spreadsheet. Below I want to copy only the first and second month. When I try and highlight the area within the red box, the whole area gets highlighted because row 3 is a merged cell. This makes copy and paste very hard and will give problems if you are trying to clean up a spreadsheet. It also affects how formulas work when referring to that area.

merge cells in excel

Rather Merge by using Centre Across Selection

If you have to merge cells, rather use the Centre Across Selection option. The process is similar in that you:

  1. Highlight the cells
  2. Click on Format Cells
  3. Go to the alignment tab
  4. In the Horizontal drop down, choose Centre Across Selection
merge cells in excel

The end result is the same look and feel but now you can highlight exactly what you want. In the case below, when you pasted it the heading would be missing but you will need to only fix one cell instead of many.

merge cells in excel

Want to learn more about Microsoft Excel? If you prefer attending a course and live in South Africa look at the Johannesburg MS Excel 3 Day Advanced Course  or the Cape Town MS Excel 3 Day Advanced training course. If you prefer online learning or live outside South Africa, look at our online MS Excel training courses.

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