Is it possible to tell Excel not to evaluate a cell as a formula?

Example cell entry: -A23

Excel wants to evaluate this as reference to a cell. But the data I am working with has another semantics and is no reference to a cell. How to tell Excel to leave these entries as they are?

2 Answers 2


An alternate to what mehow said (if you have only a few instances like this), you can prepend a single quote:


Putting this in a cell will appear as -A23.

  • 2
    The other similar option is the face formula: put in ="-A23". Generally not as useful but occasionally worth knowing at least.
    – Chris
    Sep 5, 2013 at 16:18
  • @Chris Yup, quotes turns things into text in a formula.
    – Jerry
    Sep 5, 2013 at 16:20

Format the cell as Text

Right-click the cell and select Format Cells


then in pop-up window select formatting as Text

enter image description here

Now, enter anything you like in that cell

example (look at the formula bar)

enter image description here

  • and change font color to white?
    – barlop
    Sep 5, 2013 at 9:49
  • 2
    @barlop I am sorry, do you want to change the font color to white?
    – user222864
    Sep 5, 2013 at 9:52
  • no dude. this is the questioner's question, so one might ask, why might the questioner want the color to be white(i.e. effectively somewhat hidden) - that is what I was suggesting. Perhaps he wants the "formula" to be there not to display in the cell e.g. not to display when he prints it and not to display in the grid, but there for him to see, so to display in the bar when he selects the cell, then he might want to change font color to white. because white text on a white background, i.e. on a white background grid in the cell, makes the white contents of the cell invisible.
    – barlop
    Sep 5, 2013 at 21:34
  • @barlop I'm not sure where you got the idea that the OP wanted 'white'... "leave these entries as they are?" means display as -A23 and not let excel turn it into =-A23 as far as I see (which is excel's behaviour if you try it).
    – Jerry
    Sep 6, 2013 at 4:51
  • @barlop I'm sorry I think you must have misunderstood the question. I agree with the above Jerry's comment
    – user222864
    Sep 6, 2013 at 7:14

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