How to Find Special Characters in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Find Special Characters in Excel

Finding special characters in Excel can be a bit tricky if you don’t know where to look. But don’t worry, it’s actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it. You just need to use some features built into Excel, like the Find and Replace tool and specific functions, to locate those pesky special characters. Let’s dive in to see how you can do this step by step.

How to Find Special Characters in Excel

In this section, we’ll walk you through the steps to find special characters in Excel. These steps will help you locate any non-standard characters that might be hiding in your data.

Step 1: Open the Find and Replace Tool

Open your Excel spreadsheet and press Ctrl + H to open the Find and Replace tool.

The Find and Replace tool is a powerful feature in Excel that allows you to search for specific characters or text within your spreadsheet. This is where you’ll start your search for special characters.

Step 2: Enter the Special Characters

In the "Find what" box, type the special character you are looking for. Leave the "Replace with" box empty if you only want to find them.

If you’re not sure what special characters you might have, you can enter common ones like "@", "#", or even spaces and tabs. This will help you identify any unwanted characters in your data.

Step 3: Click on "Find All"

Click on the "Find All" button to display all instances of the special character in your spreadsheet.

The "Find All" button will list all the cells that contain the special character. This makes it easy to see where these characters are and decide what to do with them.

Step 4: Use Wildcards

If you’re looking for a range of special characters, use wildcards like * or ? in the "Find what" box.

Wildcards are symbols that represent one or more characters. For example, using * as a wildcard will match any number of characters, while ? matches a single character. This can be useful if you’re not sure exactly what special characters you have.

Step 5: Use the SUBSTITUTE Function

For a more targeted approach, use the SUBSTITUTE function to replace special characters. The formula is =SUBSTITUTE(cell, "old_text", "new_text").

The SUBSTITUTE function allows you to replace specific characters with something else. This is especially useful if you want to clean up your data by removing or replacing unwanted characters.

After you complete these steps, you’ll have a clear idea of where all the special characters are in your spreadsheet. You can then decide whether to keep, remove, or replace them based on your needs.

Tips for Finding Special Characters in Excel

  • Use CHAR Function: The CHAR function can help you find characters by their ASCII code. For example, =CHAR(34) returns the double quote character.
  • Check for Hidden Characters: Sometimes, special characters are hidden. Use the CLEAN function to remove non-printable characters.
  • Use Conditional Formatting: Highlight cells with special characters using conditional formatting to make them stand out.
  • Filter Your Data: Use Excel’s filter feature to sort and view cells that contain special characters.
  • Utilize Regular Expressions: If you’re familiar with VBA, you can use regular expressions to find and replace special characters more efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are special characters in Excel?

Special characters are non-alphanumeric characters such as punctuation marks, symbols, and spaces that are not typically found in text or numbers.

How do I remove special characters from my data?

You can use the SUBSTITUTE or CLEAN functions to remove special characters from your data.

Can I find special characters using VBA?

Yes, you can use VBA to create a custom script that searches for and manipulates special characters in your Excel spreadsheet.

What is the CHAR function used for in Excel?

The CHAR function is used to return the character associated with a specific ASCII code. It can be useful for finding and displaying special characters.

How do I highlight cells with special characters?

Use conditional formatting to apply a specific style to cells containing special characters. This makes them easier to spot.


  1. Open the Find and Replace tool.
  2. Enter the special characters.
  3. Click on "Find All".
  4. Use wildcards.
  5. Use the SUBSTITUTE function.


Finding special characters in Excel doesn’t have to be a headache. By following these steps, you can quickly and easily locate any pesky characters hiding in your data. Using tools like Find and Replace, wildcards, and functions like SUBSTITUTE and CHAR makes the process straightforward.

Once you’ve identified the special characters, you can decide what to do with them—whether that’s cleaning up your data or just knowing where they are. And if you want to dive deeper, you can always explore VBA scripts or other advanced methods. So go ahead, open up Excel, and get started on finding those special characters today!

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