How to start a new line in Excel cell: 3 ways to insert a line break

The tutorial will teach you three quick and easy ways to add a line break in Excel cell: use a shortcut to type multiple lines, Find & Replace feature to add a carriage return after a specific character, and a formula to combine text pieces from several cells each starting in a new line.

When using Excel for storing and manipulating text entries, you may sometimes want a certain part of a text string to start in a new line. A good example of multi-line text could be mailing labels or some personal details entered in one cell.

In most Office applications, starting a new paragraph is not a problem - you simply press Enter on your keyboard. In Microsoft Excel, however, this work differently - pressing the Enter key completes the entry and moves the cursor to the next cell. So, how do you create a new line in Excel? There are three swift ways to do this.

How to start a new line in Excel cell

The fastest way to create a new line within a cell is by using a keyboard shortcut:

  • Windows shortcut for line break: Alt + Enter
  • Mac shortcut for line feed: Control + Option + Return or Control + Command + Return

In Excel 365 for Mac, you can also use Option + Return. Option is the equivalent of the Alt key on Windows, so it seems the original Windows shortcut (Alt + Enter) now works for Mac too. If it does not work for you, then try the traditional Mac shortcuts above.

If you are accessing Excel for Mac via Citrix, you can make a new line with the Command + Option + Return key combination. (Thank you Amanda for this tip!)

To add a new line in Excel cell with a shortcut, please follow these steps:

  1. Double-click the cell where you want to enter a line break.
  2. Type the first part of the text. If the text is already in the cell, place the cursor where you want to break the line.
  3. On Windows, hold Alt while pressing the Enter key. In Excel for Mac, hold Control and Option while pressing the Return key.
  4. Press Enter to finish up and exit the edit mode.

As the result, you will get multiple lines in Excel cell. If the text still shows up in one line, make sure the Wrap text feature is turned on.
Start a new line in Excel cell.

Tips to do a carriage return in Excel

The following tips show how to avoid common problems when inserting multiple lines in one cell and demonstrate a couple of unobvious uses.

Enable Wrap text

To see multiple lines in a cell, you need to have Wrap text enabled for that cell. For this, simply select the cell(s) and click the Wrap Text button on the Home tab, in the Alignment group. In some cases, you may also need to adjust cell width manually.
Enable Wrap text to see multiple lines in a cell.

Add multiple line breaks to increase spacing between lines

If you'd like to have a gap of two or more lines between different text parts, press Alt + Enter twice or more times. This will insert consecutive line feeds within a cell like shown in the screenshot below:
Enter multiple line breaks between lines

Create a new line in formula to make it easier to read

Sometimes, it may be helpful to show lengthy formulas in multiple lines to make them easier to understand and debug. The Excel line break shortcut can do this too. In a cell or in the formula bar, place the cursor before the argument that you want to move to a new line and press Ctrl + Alt. After that, press Enter to complete the formula and exit the edit mode.
Showing a formula in multiple lines

How to insert a line break after a specific character

In case you received a worksheet with many one-line entries, breaking each line manually might take hours. Luckily, there is an extremely useful trick to put multiple lines into all selected cells in one go!

As an example, let's add a carriage return after each comma in a text string:

  1. Select all the cells in which you want to start a new line(s).
  2. Press Ctrl + H to open the Replace tab of Excel's Find and Replace dialog. Or click Find & Select > Replace on the Home tab, in the Editing group.
  3. In the Find and Replace dialog box, do the following:
    • In the Find what field, type a comma and a space (, ). If your text strings are separated by commas without spaces, type only a comma (,).
    • In the Replace with field, press Ctrl + J to insert a carriage return. This will insert a line break in place of each comma; the commas will be removed. If you'd like to keep a comma at the end of each line but last, type a comma and then press the Ctrl + J shortcut.
    • Click the Replace All button.

    Inserting line breaks instead of commas

Done! Multiple lines are created in the selected cells. Depending on your input in the Replace with field, you will get one of the following results.

All commas are replaced with carriage returns:
Commas are replaced with carriage returns.

A line break is inserted after each comma, keeping all the commas:
A new line is created after each comma in a cell.

How to create a new line in Excel cell with a formula

The keyboard shortcut is useful for manually entering new lines in individual cells, and the Find and Replace is great for breaking multiple lines at a time. In case you are combining data from several cells and want each part to start in a new line, the best way to add a carriage return is by using a formula.

In Microsoft Excel, there is a special function to insert different characters in cells - the CHAR function. On Windows, the character code for the line break is 10, so we'll be using CHAR(10).

To put together the values from multiple cells, you can use either the CONCATENATE function or the concatenation operator (&). And the CHAR function will help you insert line breaks in between.

The generic formulas are as follows:

cell1 & CHAR(10) & cell2 & CHAR(10) & cell3 & …

Or

CONCATENATE(cell1, CHAR(10), cell2, CHAR(10), cell3, …)

Assuming the pieces of text appear in A2, B2 and C2, one of the following formulas will combine them in one cell:

=A2&CHAR(10)&B2&CHAR(10)&C2

=CONCATENATE(A2, CHAR(10), B2, CHAR(10), C2)

Creating new lines in Excel cell with a formula

In Excel for Office 365, Excel 2019 and Excel 2019 for Mac, you can also use the TEXTJOIN function. Unlike the above formulas, the syntax of TEXTJOIN allows you to include a delimiter for separating text values, which makes the formula more compact and easier to build.

Here's a generic version:

TEXTJOIN(CHAR(10), TRUE, cell1, cell2, cell3, …)

For our sample data set, the formula goes as follows:

=TEXTJOIN(CHAR(10), TRUE, A2:C2)

Where:

  • CHAR(10) adds a carriage return between each combined text value.
  • TRUE tells the formula to skip empty cells.
  • A2:C2 are the cells to join.

The result is exactly the same as with CONCATENATE:
Excel formula to add carriage returns in a cell

Notes:

  • For multiple lines to appear in a cell, remember to have Text Wrap enabled and adjust the cell width if needed.
  • The character code for a carriage return varies depending on the platform. On Windows, the line break code is 10, so you use CHAR(10). On Mac, it's 13, so you use CHAR(13).

That's how to add a carriage return in Excel. I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week!

Available downloads

Formulas to enter new line in Excel cell

16 responses to "How to start a new line in Excel cell: 3 ways to insert a line break"

  1. Goran Ignjatic says:

    Hi, the instructions for carriage break in a excel cell do not seem to work for me. I am using Office 365 but via Citrix on a Mac. There is no Alt key, but neither [cntl+cmnd+rtn] nor [cntl+optn+rtn] seem to work. The cell already has an existing Carriage return, ie two lines of text (so yes Warp Text is definitely already enabled for the cell) and I need to add a third line.

  2. Natalie says:

    I'm on a Mac using excel online. I am trying to do a line return in a cell, i.e., make a new line in the same cell. There is no ALT key.
    cntl+cmnd+rtn] nor [cntl+optn+rtn] do not work. I tried it once and it worked. And now it doesn't work anymore. I've tried it 20 times.
    What do I do?

  3. Jules says:

    also unable to use the key combinations to do a carriage return in an excel cell using a Mac. Any ideas?

  4. Hayden Streater says:

    For a mac, adopt the same process for formula but use CHAR(13).

  5. Mi Mi says:

    I am trying to do a line return on a excel sheet using a mac in the same cell. I have tried cntl + Cmnd + rtn and cntl + opt+ rtn I have tried numerous times on several different excel sheets. Also tried FN + opt+ rtn. Opt+ rtn. I have no alt key on the Mac.

  6. Sumit says:

    I would like to trim multiple lines within a cell can you anyone give any solution or suggestion on my question?

    • Hello!
      I’m sorry but your task is not entirely clear to me.
      Please describe your problem in more detail. Include an example of the source data and the result you want to get. It’ll help me understand your request better and find a solution for you. Thank you.

      • chris says:

        we all have the same problem, we can't get rid of returns in a cell on a Mac. None of the PC options work. We are typically copying something from a website and it througs a return in the cell. when will someone here answer the bloody question??????

  7. Kate says:

    I was having this issue and finally got it to work by pressing [option + return] only. The option key is considered the alt key on a Mac

  8. Amanda says:

    I'm also accessing Excel via Citrix and this has been driving me SO crazy, but I just figured it out! Command+Option+Return worked! Not sure why the order changed from before.

  9. Viktor says:

    you can try using Command + Shift + Enter to break a new line in Mac. Hope it helps you out.

  10. Jennifer says:

    How can I press enter and then go to the next row. For example if I am typing in a row and now I am done and I am at cell G1 and now I want to go to A2. If I hit enter it goes to G2. This might sound stupid but we are trying to format a spreadsheet to go to the next line when you hit enter not tab. And we want to be able to hit enter for each cell in the row rather than tab. Is that possible? Thank you.

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