Cleaning Up Your Excel 2010 Data
Illustration by John Hersey

Cleaning Up Your Excel 2010 Data

with Dennis Taylor

Video: Getting rid of leading single quotes

Downloaded or copied data might contain leading single quotes. And although generally not a problem, you do want to get rid of them. There are a couple techniques for doing this. We don't see them so obviously either. In Column B there are some, and as I click on Cell B3, you can see in the formula bar there's a single quote. If you happen to double-click in the cell, you'll also see it there too. We don't have these on all the cells, but we don't know how many, and we are certainly not going to go to every single cell to check it out. We need to get rid of them though, for the sake of consistency, and potentially some other reasons as well.

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Watch the Online Video Course Cleaning Up Your Excel 2010 Data
1h 26m Appropriate for all Nov 01, 2011

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In this course, Dennis Taylor explores the functions, commands, and techniques in Excel that restructure data, remove unwanted characters, convert date data into the desired format, and prepare data for efficient analysis. This course helps get data from a business management system file, other database software, a text file, or a poorly designed Excel worksheet into optimal shape for working with in Excel.

Topics include:
  • Moving or inserting rows and columns of data with a simple drag
  • Using Text to Columns
  • Harnessing the Find and Replace command to replace data at the character level
  • Dealing with special characters and wildcards during search
  • Converting dates with text functions
  • Converting text data to values/numbers
  • Checking and correcting spelling mistakes
  • Splitting data into multiple columns via the Text to Columns feature
  • Combining data from different columns via concatenation
Subjects:
Business IT
Software:
Excel
Author:
Dennis Taylor

Getting rid of leading single quotes

Downloaded or copied data might contain leading single quotes. And although generally not a problem, you do want to get rid of them. There are a couple techniques for doing this. We don't see them so obviously either. In Column B there are some, and as I click on Cell B3, you can see in the formula bar there's a single quote. If you happen to double-click in the cell, you'll also see it there too. We don't have these on all the cells, but we don't know how many, and we are certainly not going to go to every single cell to check it out. We need to get rid of them though, for the sake of consistency, and potentially some other reasons as well.

One way to approach this is simply to use a function called Substitute. I'll make the column a little bit wider here, so we can see this better. We simply want to substitute for that single quote if it exists, nothing. The substitute function allows us to do this, regardless of where it's found, but in this case it will only be in the first position. So, we're looking in cell B3, comma. What are we looking for? Single quote. We need to embed that within double quote, so it looks a little crowded there. That's a double quote, a single quote, a double quote, comma.

What do we want to replace this with? Nothing, so we put in double quote twice, with nothing between the double quotes. It's a little strange there. And we don't need to actually refer to an instance number here; we'll simply press Enter. It looks good, but we can't tell exactly whether that worked, because it's still a function. So let's copy this down in the column. And the next step is to turn our results into actual values. And a quick way to do this is simply to take any edge--top, bottom, left, or right--say the top edge, and we're going to drag this with the right mouse button temporarily upward and then downward right on top of itself.

And because we're using the right mouse button, when we release it, we see a menu. Copy Here as Values Only. So what do we have in this cell right now? There's no single quote there or there. Look in the formula bar. If we happen to double-click, we won't see them either. So the single quotes are gone, and that takes care of the situation. I'm going to press Ctrl+Z to do some undos here. Go back a bit. Another way to do this--so now they're back again--is--and this is an unlikely, but perhaps faster way to do it--right-click on an empty cell somewhere and copy.

Then select the data in question. So we could go here, and we can quickly highlight all the cells from here downward, simply by holding down the Shift key and double-clicking the bottom edge. I'm going to select all of those cells, right-click, Paste Special, and Add. In effect, we're adding a blank, or a zero, to these cells. Click OK. So what do we have left here? No single quote, no single quote; they're gone. So different techniques for getting rid of those. And here and there, particularly if codes are all numbers, they do cause occasional problems.

We've just seen two techniques for getting rid of single quotes--a problem with downloaded data sometimes.

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Q: Where can I learn more about Excel formulas?
A: Discover more on this topic by visiting Excel formulas on lynda.com.
 
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