Microsoft KB Archive/43995

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Excel: Error When Using +, -, @, or = to Start Text in a Cell

The information in this article applies to:

  • Microsoft Excel for the Macintosh, versions 2.2, 3.0, 4.0


In Microsoft Excel version 2.2 and later, a text value cannot start with any of the following symbols:

   Name of Sign       Symbol
   -------------      ------

   Equal sign           =
   Plus sign            +
   Minus sign           -
   At sign              @ 

If these symbols are used to start a cell, the error message "Error in Formula" will result if the entered information is not a valid formula. This behavior is by program design to provide compatibility with other spreadsheet applications, such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel for Windows, which use these characters to enter formulas.

To enter a text value beginning with one of the above symbols, use one of the following methods:

Method 1

Precede the text value with a hard space (OPTION+SPACEBAR).

Method 2

Enter the text value preceded by an equal sign (=) and enclose it in quotation marks, as shown in the following example:

   ="+/- 2 Weeks" 


This behavior is different from Microsoft Excel versions 1.5 and earlier, which allows formulas to begin with a "+", "-", or an "@", and treat any cell beginning with one of those symbols as text.

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Last Reviewed: March 12, 1999
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