I would like to use a conditional formatting rule in an excel file that would color any box with a question mark in it red. It seems that Excel is using a question mark as a wild card and will turn all cells with at least one character in them red. How can i escape the question mark?

These don't seem to work:

  • "?"
  • \?
  • '?'
  • ??

3 Answers 3


Prefix it with tilde


The tilde (~) is an escape character for special and wildcard characters in Excel. You can use escape characters to provide literal representations of characters that otherwise have a special meaning. You can also use tilde (~) followed by ?, *, or ~ to find question marks, asterisks, or other tilde characters — for example, fy91~? finds "fy91?"

  • 35
    Prefix with a ~ ? Seriously ? What the rofl... Does anyone have an idea why ? Anyway, huge thanks. I'd never have figured out such a syntax alone.
    – Balmipour
    Jun 27, 2017 at 15:43

Change the rule to "cells ending with" "?". This will color all cells with a question mark assuming it is the last character.


Also you can use Specific Text > Contains > ~? This tells excel to ignore symbol command and treats the cell as text.

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