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When I try to find the question mark character (?) in an Excel sheet, Excel cannot locate the cells containing them. How can I search for ? in Excel?

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The same applies to *, in case you want to expand your question :) – Oliver Salzburg Aug 7 '12 at 17:54
up vote 52 down vote accepted

To search for the cells containing the question mark character (?), use a tilde before it inside the search box:


Now Excel will show you only the cells that contain the question mark character (?).

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I wonder why... For me, Excel 2010 finds ? as it would with any character/letter or number. – Dave Aug 7 '12 at 12:27
I just tried it on Office 2010 and it couldn't find ?. With each click on "Find" button, it just select cells starting with the first cell in the sheet. – Mehper C. Palavuzlar Aug 7 '12 at 13:14
Note: The cell contains only the question mark and nothing else. – Mehper C. Palavuzlar Aug 7 '12 at 13:15
This works for for finding question marks in filters as well. – Nomic Apr 22 '15 at 4:44

The ? is a wildcard which represents a single character, and the * is a wildcard character that represents any string of characters.

When searching for either wildcard character, Excel will simply find everything, whether or not these actual characters appear in the cells you're searching.

To find either of the specific characters, when not using them in a wildcard search, you must precede it in your search criteria with a tilde, the ~ character.

  • ~? finds only the ? character
  • ~* finds only the * character
  • ? finds all single characters
  • * finds all strings of characters
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~~ finds only the ~ character – Dan Jan 7 at 15:21

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