The Complete Guide to Merge Cells in Excel

Merging cells together in Excel is a method to make one large cell out of two or more smaller ones. It’s a common way to give spreadsheets headers, titles, and present large amounts of text without having it get cutoff or wrap inside of a single cell.

Merging two or more cells in Excel helps people create titles, headers and fit large amounts of text into one large cell

We’ll explain what merged cells are, how to merge and unmerge cells, along with different scenarios such as merging cells to avoid the loss of data, and when you may want to consider avoiding the merging of cells to prevent formula errors and complications.

Let’s jump in!

What are Merged Cells in Excel?

Merged cells in Excel allow you to combine two or more adjacent cells into a single cell. This is often used to create a single larger cell that can display a title, a header, or any text that benefits from additional space. Merging cells is a formatting method to improve the layout of your spreadsheets.

The example below shows two rows of merged cells at the top of an income statement.

Screenshot of an income statement in Excel with merged cells at the top for headers

There are clearly formatting advantages to merging cells, however the same merged cells can create issues when performing data analysis and applying formulas to your spreadsheet that you should be aware of. The following list breaks down some scenarios where you would likely want to merge cells, and several reasons why you should consider whether or not it will be create issues in the future.

Reasons to Merge Cells in Excel

Merging cells can significantly improve the appearance and readability of your spreadsheets:

  • Centering Titles – Merging creates a larger cell that can center report titles or headers across columns.
  • Displaying Long Text – Offers more space for presenting longer text without affecting the layout.
  • Simplicity – The process to merge and unmerge cells is straightforward, allowing quick formatting changes.

Reasons to Avoid Merging Cells in Excel

Despite its benefits, merging cells can create complications:

  • Formula Complications – Functions like SUMIF and VLOOKUP become harder to manage with merged cells.
  • Data Loss Risk – Special workarounds are necessary to prevent data loss when merging cells, as Excel typically keeps only the content from the upper-left cell.
  • Sorting and Filtering Issues – Merged cells can make it difficult to sort and filter data when merged cells span multiple rows or columns.

Now let’s explain a couple of methods used to merge cells in Excel.

How to Merge Cells in Excel

To merge cells in Excel, select multiple adjacent cells. Then click the Merge & Center button on the “Alignment” section of the Home tab on the Excel Ribbon. Alternatively, you can select multiple cells, right-click and select Merge & Center.

The example below shows multiple cells selected and the Merge & Center button highlighted.

Cells selected with the Merge & Center button highlighted on the Excel Ribbon

As an alternative method, meany popular formatting options are available in Excel by right clicking selected cells. For example, Merge and Center is available without having to navigate back to the Home Ribbon saving Excel users time.

Right-clicking selected cells to apply Merge & Center

The biggest advantage to using the Merge & Center button from the Excel ribbon is that it provides additional options such as the capability to Merge without centering, Merge Across which creates multiple wide rows, and the capability to unmerge cells.

Merge Across vs Merge Cells in Excel

Two merge options that compliment Excel Merge & Center are Merge Across and Merge Cells. Merge Across will combine all columns in a selected area of cells, while Merge Cells with convert the range into one large cell.

The example below shows Merge Across creating multiple rows of single columns. This could be used for data entry or for parts of a workbook that contain large amounts of text specific to each row.

Different merge options available in Excel such as Merge Across, Merge Cells, Merge & Center with Merge Across being used.

The following example of Merge Cells shows one single large cell that could be used to type in a paragraph or display multiple sentences without text over-running a single cell.

A comparison of Merge Cells vs Merge Across in Excel

While Merge & Center is the most common option to deploy, Merge Cells is a convenient alternative to allow users to combine cells without automatically centering the data within it.

Shortcut for Merging Cells in Excel

There’s no built-in keyboard shortcut for merging cells in Excel, but you can use the keyboard to quickly navigate the Excel ribbon. Here are the steps to merge cells and the corresponding keyboard shortcut.

  1. Select the cells to merge.
  2. Navigate to the “Home” tab.
  3. Click on “Merge & Center” in the alignment group.

For quicker access use Alt + H + M + C for the keyboard shortcut. This navigates to Home > Merge > Merge & Center

How to Merge Cells in Excel and Keep All Text

Merging cells without losing data requires a workaround. Excel’s default behavior is to keep only the contents of the upper-left cell in the selected range. To avoid data loss, you must manually combine values or utilize a CONCATENATE function.

To keep all text in Excel when merging cells, follow these steps:

  1. Combine Text First: Concatenate the data using the & operator or the CONCATENATE function.
  2. Copy and Paste: Copy the concatenated result and paste it into a cell.
  3. Merge Cells: You can now merge the cells for formatting purposes without data loss.

The screenshot below shows an Excel warning that data is going to be lost if multiple cells containing values are merged together.

Merging cells only keeps the upper-left value and discards other values dialog box when about to lose data when merging cells

The easiest method to fix this is with a concatenate formula.

How to Combine Data from Two Excel Cells into One

To physically combine two cells into one while retaining both pieces of data, you must first concatenate the content. There are multiple syntax used to concatenate we’ll walk through them.

Concatenate Values in Multiple Cells

Use =A1 & ” ” & B1 or =CONCATENATE(A1, ” “, B1) to combine the text from the cells you want to merge.

The & symbol is used to combine text from multiple cells.

The ” “ part of the formula defines a space between the values. Quotes tell Excel that there is text that should be defined. Even though it may look empty, this step is required to combine things like first and last name and maintain readability.

Here is an example of formula being used to concatenate on the right. The one at the top combines text without a space, the second combines text with a space in the middle.

Example of concatenate function in use with and without a space between two words

Copy and Paste Concatenated Values

After combining values with a CONCATENATE formula, copy the resulting text. Then right-click and select Copy (CTRL + C). In the destination cells, right-click and select paste values.

Pasting values will place all of the text into a single cell. If you perform a regular paste function you will copy and paste the formulas which won’t retain the references to the original cells.

Right-clicking and pasting values in Excel to paste text instead of formulas

After pasting the combined information into a single cell, delete the redundant information from the remaining cells.

Now when you select the cell range and click on Merge & Center the data will be combined into a single cell without seeing an Excel dialog box that data is about to be lost.

The Difference Between Merge and Concatenate

The terms “merge” and “concatenate” might seem interchangeable but serve different purposes in Excel,

  • Merge – Combines the physical space of adjacent cells into one cell. Only the upper-left cell’s content is kept, while the rest are discarded.
  • Concatenate – Joins the content (text, numbers) from multiple cells into one cell without altering the cell structure. This function keeps all data intact.

By using concatenate to first join the contents of multiple cells, you can then Merge the cells to make the physical space in your worksheet larger for the selected range.

How to Unmerge Cells in Excel

If you ever need to revert merged cells back to their original state, you can do so by selecting the merged range, then go to Home, Merge & Center, and select Unmerge Cells. Alternatively, you can right click merged cells and de-select merge & center.

Right-clicking on a merged cell to unmerge cells using the quick formatting menu

This action will split the merged cell back into its original, individual cells, the content will be placed in the upper-left cell.

Conclusion

Merging cells in Excel can be accomplished with the Merge & Center feature. Select a cell range, navigate to the Home Tab, and select Merge & Center from the Alignment section. Alternatively, you can right-click on a selected cell range and use the quick formatting options to merge or un-merge cells.

When multiple cells within a range contain text or values, you have to concatenate them first to avoid data loss. By default, Excel will only keep the data in the upper left cell of a selected range.

Scroll to Top