Why you may struggle to align numbers in Excel (even if you add or delete spaces)

Working in MS Excel is great because by default it assumes you are working with numbers and as such does its best to display numbers correctly (neatly aligned). However, mostly when moving numbers out of Excel, you may experience that strange occurance of having to try to align numbers. You spend hours adding and deleting spaces and yet you cannot align numbers in Excel.

This has nothing to do with the program you are using, be it Excel, Word or PowerPoint. It is actually about the font you use and mixing up letters and numbers!

So below is how we want to see it. Notice that all the cents are exactly below each other, and the tens, hundreds and thousands all line up (note that this is letters and numbers in the same column).

Why you may struggle to align numbers in Excel

The exact same thing (not a single change) using Times New Roman font shows this (below). Note that it looks like the numbers don’t line up. If you look closer you will see that it is the letters that aren’t lining up (count the number of letters that fit into the same space for Interest Paid and Maintenance below)

Why you may struggle to align numbers in Excel

Align numbers in Excel (and other software)

The reason for this is how fonts work. Certain fonts take the same amount of space for each letter. So an ‘o’ takes the same space as an ‘i’, but clearly the widths are very different. Some fonts, like the Times New Roman above, take different amounts of space depending on the letter size. So only if the cells contain exactly the same letters will they line up.

This only impacts letters and not the numbers. So below we have 10 i’s and 10 o’s in different fonts. Note the space difference between the 2 fonts for the different series of letters. Note that for numbers, with these 2 fonts, it has correctly made then line up.

Courier is a better font for aligning the letters so that the numbers will also lineup.

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Excel refuses to align a number left or centre

Impact of font type in Excel numbers copied to Word or PowerPoint