How to Insert a Return in an MS Excel Cell: Step-by-Step Guide

Inserting a return in an MS Excel cell is a simple task that can be done by pressing ALT + ENTER on your keyboard while typing in a cell. This action will create a new line within the cell, allowing for better organization and readability of your data.

After pressing ALT + ENTER, the cursor will move to the next line within the same cell, allowing you to continue typing. The cell will automatically adjust its height to accommodate the additional text.


When working with Microsoft Excel, we often come across a need to add multiple lines of text within a single cell. This could be for a variety of reasons – maybe you’re creating a list, inputting a paragraph of information, or just want to separate points for clarity. Whatever the reason, knowing how to insert a return, or line break, in an Excel cell is a handy skill to have under your belt. It helps keep your data tidy and readable, which is especially important when you’re dealing with large spreadsheets where information needs to stand out.

This tutorial is perfect for those who are new to Excel or anyone who wants to refine their Excel skills. It’s a simple yet effective trick that can make a world of difference in the presentation of your data. So, let’s get into it and learn how to insert a return in an MS Excel cell!

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Insert a Return in an MS Excel Cell

Before we jump into the steps, it’s important to understand what we’re aiming to achieve. By following these steps, you’ll be able to enter text on multiple lines within a single cell in Excel. This can be useful for adding detailed information without enlarging the cell or making the text too small to read.

Step 1: Double-click the cell where you want to insert a return

Double-clicking the cell will make it active and allow you to edit the text within it.

When you double-click, you’ll notice that the cursor appears in the cell, indicating that you can now begin typing or editing the text. If the cell already has content, you can click where you want the new line to begin.

Step 2: Place the cursor where you want to insert the return

Move your cursor to the point in the text where you want to create a new line.

You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard or click with your mouse to place the cursor in the correct position. It’s essential to be precise so your line break happens exactly where you want it.

Step 3: Press ALT + ENTER on your keyboard

This is the key combination that will create a new line within the cell.

After pressing ALT + ENTER, you’ll see that the text after the cursor moves to a new line within the cell. Remember that this shortcut may vary slightly depending on your operating system or keyboard layout.


Improved ReadabilityBy inserting returns, your data will look neater and be easier to read and understand.
Better OrganizationLine breaks in a cell can help separate different points or items, which can make data easier to analyze.
Increased FlexibilityUnderstanding how to insert a return gives you more control over how your information is displayed in Excel.

Improving readability is crucial, especially when sharing spreadsheets with colleagues or clients. A well-organized cell with clear breaks is more pleasing to the eye and less likely to cause confusion.

Organizing data efficiently is key in Excel, and by using returns, you can structure information logically within cells. This can help avoid misinterpretation and make your spreadsheets more professional.

Flexibility is what makes Excel such a valuable tool, and mastering these small but significant functions allows you to tailor your spreadsheets to your needs.


Potential for ClutterIf overused, inserting too many returns could make a cell look cluttered and overwhelming.
Printing IssuesCells with multiple lines may not print as expected, which could cause formatting problems.
Compatibility ConcernsWhen exporting Excel data to other formats, line breaks may not always be preserved.

Using returns excessively can lead to a cell that looks busy and hard to decipher. It’s essential to strike a balance between clarity and conciseness.

Printing spreadsheets that contain cells with multiple lines can be tricky. You may need to adjust your print settings or the layout of your data to ensure it prints correctly.

When you export your Excel spreadsheet to another format like CSV or integrate with other software, the returns may not carry over, leading to potential data misalignment.

Additional Information

While learning how to insert a return in an MS Excel cell may seem like a minor detail, it’s these little tricks that can significantly elevate your Excel game. Remember, Excel is a powerful tool, and mastering its functions can make data management much more accessible. When using this feature, consider the context and ask yourself whether a return is necessary for clarity or if it might unnecessarily complicate the cell’s content.

Also, keep in mind that while this method works great within Excel, if you’re working with shared files or need to export your data, things might look a bit different on the receiving end. So, always double-check your work to ensure it looks as intended. Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment with other Excel features that might complement the use of line breaks, such as text wrapping or cell alignment options.


  1. Double-click the cell where you want to insert a return
  2. Place the cursor where you want to insert the return
  3. Press ALT + ENTER on your keyboard

Frequently Asked Questions

What if ALT + ENTER doesn’t work?

Make sure you’re pressing both keys simultaneously and that your cursor is in the cell where you want the return. If it’s still not working, check your keyboard settings or try using a different keyboard.

Can I use this method to insert returns in multiple cells at once?

No, this method only works for one cell at a time. You would need to repeat the process for each cell where you want a return.

Will inserting a return affect the formulas referencing that cell?

No, inserting a return won’t affect the formulas. The cell’s content is still considered one entity by Excel, regardless of the line breaks.

Can I remove a return if I change my mind?

Yes, simply place your cursor at the beginning of the new line and press backspace. It will remove the return and bring the text back to a single line.

Does this method work in all versions of Excel?

Yes, this keyboard shortcut works in all modern versions of Excel.


Understanding how to insert a return in an MS Excel cell is an essential skill for anyone looking to enhance their spreadsheet skills. It’s a simple process that can have a significant impact on the readability and organization of your data. Like any feature in Excel, it’s essential to use it wisely and avoid overcomplicating your cells.

But with a bit of practice, you’ll be adding line breaks like a pro, making your spreadsheets look cleaner and more professional. So go ahead, give it a try, and watch how a simple ALT + ENTER can transform your data presentation!

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