How to Stop Excel From Changing Numbers to Dates: A Guide

Have you ever typed something into Excel, only for it to frustratingly change into a date format? You’re not alone. Excel often auto-formats text that looks like dates, which can cause a headache if that’s not what you intended. But fear not – stopping Excel from changing your input to a date is simpler than you might think. Just follow these straightforward steps, and you’ll have complete control over your data in no time.

How to Stop Excel from Changing to Date Tutorial

Before diving into the steps, it’s important to understand that Excel tries to be helpful by guessing the format of the data you’re entering. In this case, we want to tell Excel not to make any assumptions about our data. By following these steps, you’ll prevent Excel from auto-formatting text that resembles dates.

Step 1: Select the Cells You Want to Format

Click and drag to highlight the cells that you want to stop from changing to a date format.

When you select cells in Excel, you’re telling the program which specific cells you want to work with. Make sure you’ve selected all the cells that you want to apply this change to before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Open the Format Cells Dialog Box

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

The Format Cells dialog box is where you can control exactly how you want your data to appear. It gives you numerous options to customize the cell formatting to your preference.

Step 3: Select the ‘Text’ Format

In the Format Cells dialog box, click on the ‘Number’ tab and select ‘Text’ from the list of categories.

Choosing the ‘Text’ format tells Excel to treat the data in the selected cells as text, not numbers or dates. This means Excel will leave your data exactly as you type it.

Step 4: Click ‘OK’

After selecting ‘Text’, click ‘OK’ to apply the formatting to the selected cells.

Once you click ‘OK’, the cells will be formatted as text, and anything you type in them will stay exactly as you enter it, without Excel assuming it’s a date.

After you complete these steps, you’ll notice that the cells you formatted as text won’t change to a date format anymore. This allows you to enter data like ‘2-3’ or ‘3/4’ without Excel interpreting it as the 2nd of March or April 3rd.

Tips to Prevent Excel from Changing Text to Dates

  • Always format cells as text before entering your data to avoid any auto-formatting issues.
  • If you’re importing data from another source, use the Text Import Wizard and set the column data format to ‘Text’.
  • Pay attention to how you enter dates. Using a format like ‘YYYY-MM-DD’ can help prevent unwanted changes.
  • Keep in mind that formatting cells as text will make it impossible to perform date calculations unless you convert it back to a date format.
  • Use apostrophes before you type numbers in a cell to prevent Excel from changing the format (e.g., type ‘2-3 instead of 2-3).

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does Excel change my numbers to dates?

Excel changes numbers that look like dates into date format because it’s trying to be helpful by recognizing patterns in your data.

Excel is programmed to identify and format data based on what it thinks you’re trying to do. When it sees a number that resembles a date, it assumes you’re entering a date and formats it accordingly.

Can I change multiple cells at once?

Yes, you can format multiple cells at once by selecting them all before opening the Format Cells dialog box.

Selecting multiple cells is a time-saver if you have a large amount of data that needs to be kept in a text format. Just make sure to select all the cells you want to change before applying the new format.

What if Excel has already changed my data to a date?

If Excel has already changed your data to a date, you can convert it back by reformatting the cells as text and re-entering your data.

Unfortunately, Excel doesn’t always revert your data back to its original form when you change the cell format from a date to text. You may need to retype your data after reformatting the cells.

Will formatting cells as text affect my calculations?

Yes, formatting cells as text will affect any calculations since Excel won’t recognize text as a number or date.

If you need to perform calculations on data that Excel keeps changing to a date format, you’ll need to find a balance between keeping the data as text for entry and converting it to a number or date format for calculations.

How can I import data without it changing to a date?

When importing data into Excel, use the Text Import Wizard and specify that the data column is text to prevent Excel from converting it to a date.

The Text Import Wizard gives you more control over how your data is imported into Excel, including the ability to set the data format for each column.


  1. Select the cells you want to format.
  2. Open the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Choose ‘Text’ format.
  4. Click ‘OK’.


So, there you have it – a foolproof way to stop Excel from changing your text to dates. Remember, the key is to set your cells to ‘Text’ format before you start entering any data. It’s a simple yet effective trick that can save you a lot of time and frustration. And, if you ever need to perform calculations with your data, you can always temporarily change the format back to a date or number. With these tips and tricks in your arsenal, you’ll be a master of Excel in no time. So, what are you waiting for? Give it a try and see how easy it is to keep your data just the way you want it.

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