How to Format Date in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Formatting dates in Excel can be as easy as pie once you get the hang of it. If you’ve ever been puzzled by the default date formats or need to customize the appearance of dates in your spreadsheet, keep reading. We’ll walk you through the steps to format dates in Excel, so your data looks just the way you want it.

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Format Date in Excel

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of date formatting, let’s first understand what we’re aiming for. We’ll be learning how to change the date format in Excel so that it displays dates in a specific way, whether that’s changing the order of the day, month, and year, or displaying the day of the week.

Step 1: Select the cell(s) containing the dates

Click on the cell or drag your mouse over the range of cells that have the dates you wish to format.

Selecting the correct cells is crucial because any formatting changes will only apply to the cells you’ve highlighted. Make sure you’ve got them all!

Step 2: Open the Format Cells dialog box

Right-click on the selected cells and choose ‘Format Cells’ from the context menu, or press Ctrl + 1 on your keyboard.

The Format Cells dialog box is where all the magic happens. It’s your gateway to customizing dates to fit your needs.

Step 3: Navigate to the Date category

In the Format Cells dialog box, click on the ‘Date’ category under the Number tab.

Here, you’ll find a variety of date formats to choose from. Excel provides several built-in options, but you can also create custom date formats.

Step 4: Choose your desired date format

Scroll through the list of available formats and select the one that suits your needs. If you need a custom format, click on ‘Custom’ and type in the desired format code.

The date format options include different combinations of days, months, and years, as well as options to include the day of the week or month names.

Step 5: Click OK to apply the format

Once you’ve selected your format, click ‘OK’ to apply it to the selected cells.

And voilà! Your dates should now display in the format you’ve chosen. If something doesn’t look right, just go back and tweak the format until it’s perfect.

After completing these steps, your dates will appear in the selected format whenever you enter new dates in the formatted cells. This not only enhances the visual appeal of your data but also ensures consistency across your spreadsheet.

Tips for Formatting Dates in Excel

  • Always make sure to select the correct cells before applying any formatting to avoid unwanted changes.
  • If you’re working with international dates, be aware of different formatting conventions and choose the appropriate format for your audience.
  • Use custom date formats to include text, such as day names or descriptive labels, alongside the date.
  • To quickly copy date formatting to other cells, use the Format Painter tool in Excel.
  • Remember that changing the date format does not alter the actual date value stored in Excel, only how it’s displayed.

Frequently Asked Questions on Formatting Dates

What is a custom date format in Excel?

A custom date format allows you to define your own structure for displaying dates, including the order of day, month, and year, as well as any additional text or characters.

Can I create a date format that shows the day of the week?

Yes, you can use a custom date format with the code ddd for the abbreviated day name or dddd for the full day name.

Why is Excel showing dates as numbers?

If Excel is displaying dates as numbers, it’s likely because the cell is formatted as a number or general format. To fix this, apply a date format to the cell.

How can I format dates in Excel for different regions?

You can choose a date format from the provided list that matches regional conventions, or create a custom format that fits your requirements.

What if the date format I want isn’t listed in Excel?

If you don’t see the format you want, you can create a custom date format by typing the format code in the ‘Type’ box under the Custom category.


  1. Select the cell(s) with the dates.
  2. Open the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Navigate to the Date category.
  4. Choose the desired date format.
  5. Click OK to apply the format.


Mastering how to format date in Excel can significantly improve the readability and professionalism of your spreadsheets. With the ability to customize date formats, you have the power to present your data in the most effective way possible. Whether you’re aiming for simplicity or need to adhere to specific regional date formats, Excel offers the flexibility to meet your demands.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different date formats and customizations. The more you play around with Excel’s formatting options, the more comfortable you’ll become. And if you ever find yourself stuck, there are plenty of resources and tutorials available online to guide you through the process.

So go ahead, give it a try! Format those dates and take the first step towards creating spreadsheets that are not only functional but also visually appealing. Who knows, you might just discover a newfound appreciation for the power of Excel formatting. Happy spreadsheeting!

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