How to Footnote in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Footnoting in Excel is a straightforward task that involves adding a superscript number next to the text that needs a footnote and then placing the corresponding information at the bottom of the spreadsheet or in a dedicated ‘Notes’ section. It’s a way to provide additional information or sources without cluttering the main content of your Excel sheet.

After you add a footnote, anyone who reads your Excel document will be able to see the additional information or sources you’ve provided, allowing for a deeper understanding of the data presented.


Footnotes in Excel? You may be wondering why that’s even a thing. Well, whether you’re crunching numbers for a business report, detailing a scientific study, or just organizing your personal finances, sometimes the data alone isn’t enough. You need to provide some extra tidbits of information or cite sources directly within your spreadsheet. That’s where footnoting comes into play – it’s a nifty way to weave in necessary details without disrupting the flow of your data presentation.

Now, you might think footnotes are just for Word documents or academic papers, but Excel too? Absolutely! In fact, in Excel, footnoting can be essential for adding context, giving credit where it’s due, or explaining anomalies within your data. And who needs to know how to do this? Anyone and everyone who uses Excel for detailed work – from students to professionals, from scientists to financial analysts. So, let’s dive into the how-to of footnoting in Excel, and by the end of this article, you’ll be adding those little superscript numbers like a pro!

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Footnote in Excel

Before we get into the steps, let’s clarify what we’re aiming for. By following these steps, you’ll be able to add a neat little footnote to any piece of data in your Excel sheet. This will make your data more informative and credible, especially if you’re dealing with complex datasets that require external references or additional explanations.

Step 1: Select the Cell

Select the cell next to the data that you want to footnote.

When you’ve decided which piece of data needs a footnote, click on the cell right next to it. This is where your footnote number or symbol will go.

Step 2: Insert the Footnote Number

Type the footnote number or symbol into the selected cell.

You can choose any number or symbol for your footnote, but it’s common practice to start with 1 and continue sequentially. Just type it directly into the cell.

Step 3: Change to Superscript

Make the footnote number or symbol superscript by using the ‘Format Cells’ option.

To make your footnote number look like a proper footnote, you should make it superscript, which is a smaller number slightly above the line of text. To do this, right-click on the cell, choose ‘Format Cells’, then go to the ‘Font’ tab and check the ‘Superscript’ option.

Step 4: Add the Footnote Text

Add the corresponding footnote text at the bottom of the Excel sheet or in a ‘Notes’ section.

Now, scroll down to the bottom of your Excel sheet or create a new section titled ‘Notes’. Here, type in the footnote number and the additional information or source you’d like to attach to that piece of data.


ClarityAdding footnotes helps to clarify data, making it easier for readers to understand the context or source of the information.
CredibilityFootnotes provide a way to cite sources directly within your spreadsheet, which can increase the credibility of the data presented.
Non-intrusiveFootnotes allow you to add additional information without cluttering the main content of your Excel sheet, keeping it clean and easy to read.


Space-consumingWhile they are non-intrusive, footnotes can take up valuable space at the bottom of your Excel sheet, which can be a limitation if you’re working with a lot of data.
OverlookedSome readers might overlook footnotes, missing out on critical information that’s not included in the main body of the sheet.
Time-consumingAdding footnotes can be a time-consuming process, especially when dealing with large datasets that require numerous references or explanations.

Additional Information

When footnoting in Excel, it’s important to maintain consistency. Use the same font size and style for all your footnotes to make them easily identifiable. It’s also a good idea to keep your footnotes concise but informative. Don’t forget to review your footnotes for accuracy and relevance, as incorrect or unnecessary footnotes can confuse readers or detract from the integrity of your data.

Another tip is to use cell comments as an alternative to traditional footnotes. You can add a comment to a cell by right-clicking and selecting ‘Insert Comment’. This allows you to attach information directly to a cell, which appears when a reader hovers over it. This method can save space and keep your spreadsheet from becoming cluttered.

Remember, footnoting in Excel is not just about adding numbers; it’s about enhancing the quality and understanding of your data.


  1. Select the cell
  2. Insert the footnote number
  3. Change to superscript
  4. Add the footnote text

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use letters instead of numbers for my footnotes in Excel?

Yes, you can use any symbol or letter you prefer for your footnotes. Just ensure that it is consistent and clearly indicates a footnote.

Is there a limit to how many footnotes I can add in Excel?

There’s no hard limit, but keep in mind that too many footnotes can clutter your spreadsheet and make it difficult to navigate.

Can I link my footnotes to external sources or documents?

While Excel doesn’t have a built-in feature for hyperlinking within footnotes, you can add URLs next to your footnote text for readers to copy and paste into their browser.

Are footnotes the same as comments in Excel?

No, footnotes are typically placed at the bottom of the sheet or in a ‘Notes’ section, whereas comments are attached to individual cells and appear when you hover over them.

Can I automatically number footnotes in Excel?

Excel doesn’t have an automatic footnote numbering feature like word processing software does. You’ll need to manually insert and keep track of your footnote numbers.


Footnoting in Excel might seem like an extra step that’s easy to skip, but trust me, it’s worth the effort. Not only does it bring clarity and depth to your data, but it also boosts your credibility and professionalism. Think of footnotes as the silent heroes of your spreadsheet, subtly providing the backup your data needs to shine. So the next time you’re knee-deep in Excel sheets, remember the power of a well-placed footnote. Happy footnoting!

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