How to wrap text in Excel

Svetlana Cheusheva by , updated on

This tutorial shows how to wrap text in a cell automatically and how to insert a line break manually. You will also learn the most common reasons for Excel wrap text not working and how to fix it.

Primarily, Microsoft Excel is designed to calculate and manipulate numbers. However, you may often find yourself in situations when, in addition to numbers, large amounts of text need to be stored in spreadsheets. In case longer text does not fit neatly in a cell, you can of course proceed with the most obvious way and simply make the column wider. However, it's not really an option when you work with a large worksheet that has a lot of data to display.

A much better solution is to wrap text that exceeds a column width, and Microsoft Excel provides a couple of ways to do it. This tutorial will introduce you to the Excel wrap text feature and share a few tips to use it wisely.

What is wrap text in Excel?

When the data input in a cell is too large fit in it, one of the following two things happens:

  • If columns to the right are empty, a long text string extends over the cell border into those columns.
  • If an adjacent cell to the right contains any data, a text string is cut off at the cell border.

The screenshot below shows two cases:
Wrap text in Excel

The Excel wrap text feature can help you fully display longer text in a cell without it overflowing to other cells. "Wrapping text" means displaying the cell contents on multiple lines, rather than one long line. This will allow you to avoid the "truncated column" effect, make the text easier to read and better fit for printing. In addition, it will help you keep the column width consistent throughout the entire worksheet.

The following screenshot shows how wrapped text looks like in Excel:
Wrap text to display a lengthy text string on multiple lines.

How to wrap text in Excel automatically

To force a lengthy text string to appear on multiple lines, select the cell(s) that you want to format, and turn on the Excel text wrap feature by using one of the following methods.

Method 1. Go to the Home tab > Alignment group, and click the Wrap Text button:
Click the Wrap Text button to get longer text to appear on multiple lines.

Method 2. Press Ctrl + 1 to open the Format Cells dialog (or right-click the selected cells and then click Format Cells…), switch to the Alignment tab, select the Wrap Text checkbox, and click OK.
Another way to wrap text in Excel is using the Format Cells dialog.

Compared to the first method, this one takes a couple of extra clicks, but it may save time in case you wish to make a few changes in cell formatting at a time, wrapping text being one of those changes.

Tip. If the Wrap Text checkbox is filled in solid, it indicates that the selected cells have different text wrap settings, i.e. in some cells the data is wrapped, in other cells it is not wrapped.

Result. Whichever method you use, the data in the selected cells wraps to fit the column width. If you change the column width, text wrapping will adjust automatically. The following screenshot shows a possible result:
The text wraps to fit the column width.

How to unwrap text in Excel

As you can easily guess, the two methods described above are also used to unwrap text.

The fastest way is to select the cell(s) and click the Wrap Text button (Home tab > Alignment group) to toggle text wrapping off.

Alternatively, press the Ctrl + 1 shortcut to open the Format Cells dialog and clear the Wrap text checkbox on the Alignment tab.

How to insert a line break manually

Sometimes you may want to start a new line at a specific position rather than have lengthy text wrap automatically. To enter a line break manually, just do the following:

  • Enter cell edit mode by pressing F2 or double-clicking the cell or clicking in the formula bar.
  • Put the cursor where you want to break the line, and press the Alt + Enter shortcut (i.e. press the Alt key and while holding it down, press the Enter key).

Result. Inserting a manual line break turns on the Wrap Text option automatically. However, the line breaks entered manually will stick in place when the column is made wider. If you turn off text wrapping, the data displays in one line in a cell, but the inserted line breaks are visible in the formula bar. The following screenshot demonstrates both scenarios - a line break in entered after the word "owl.
A line break is inserted manually.

For other ways to insert a line break in Excel, please see: How to start a new line in a cell.

Excel wrap text not working

As one of the most often used features in Excel, Warp Text was designed as simple as possible and you will hardly have any problems using it in your worksheets. If text wrapping does not work as expected, check out the following troubleshooting tips.

1. Fixed row height

If not all wrapped text is visible in a cell, most likely the row is set to a certain height. To fix this, select the problematic cell, go to the Home tab > Cells group, and click Format > AutoFit Row Height:
Excel wrap text not working because of a fixed row height

Or, you can set a specific row height by clicking Row Height… and then typing the desired number in the Row height box. A fixed row height comes in especially handy to control the way the table headers are displayed.

2. Merged cells

Excel's Wrap Text does not work for merged cells, so you will have to decide which feature is more important for a particular sheet. If you keep the merged cells, you can display the full text by making the column(s) wider. If you opt for Wrap Text, then unmerge cells by clicking the Merge & Center button on the Home tab, in the Alignment group:
Excel wrap text not working because of merged cells

3. The cell is wide enough to display its value

If you try to wrap a cell(s) that is already wide enough to display its contents, nothing will happen, even if later on the column is resized and becomes too narrow to fit longer entries. To force the text to wrap, toggle the Excel Wrap Text button off and on again.

4. Horizontal alignment is set to Fill

Sometimes, people want to prevent text from spilling over into next cells. This can be done by setting Fill for horizontal alignment. If later on you enable the Wrap Text feature for such cells, nothing will change - text will still be truncated at the cell's boundary. To resolve the issue, remove the Fill alignment:

  1. On the Home tab, in the Alignment group, click the Dialog launcher (a small arrow in the lower-right corner of a ribbon group). Or press Ctrl + 1 to open the Format Cells dialog box.
  2. On the Alignment tab of the Format Cells dialog box, set General for Horizontal alignment, and click OK.

Set General for Horizontal alignment.

This is how you wrap text in Excel to display longer text on multiple lines. I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week!