Excel: Word Wrap and Alignment Options in Cells

Sometimes a column heading in Excel seems about a mile wider than any of the entries below it in the column. In the graphic below, the Column D heading, Years With Company is 18 characters wide while all the entries below it will be only one or two characters. In many such cases the goal is to keep the column as narrow as possible. Let’s look at some techniques for positioning the text – using word wrap and alignment.

Wide Column Header
The text in cell D1 is much wider than that in other cells in column D

One way to show a cell’s text on multiple lines is to simply turn on word wrap for that cell. With the cell selected, click the Wrap Text icon on the Home tab of the Ribbon. Then you can let the column width dictate where the text wraps.

Word Wrap and column width
Word Wrap is turned on and the width of the column determines where the break occurs







Making the column more narrow changes the break points of the text:

Word Wrap and column width
A more narrow column changes how the text wraps in the cell







Note: You may have to manually adjust the row height to accommodate the fact that there are additional rows of text.

You can, however, use a different technique for word wrap in a way that gives you better control over the location of the break in the text. When you type text in the cell, indicate a break by holding the Alt key and pressing Enter. To get the same look as in cell D1 above, you could press Alt+Enter after the word Years and again after the word With. In this manner you are specifying the location of the wrap instead of allowing column width to determine that. Even if the column is widened again, the heading will still display as specified using Alt+Enter.

Other combinations of Alignment tools such as text rotation, word wrap, and orientation in cell offer more possibilities for text display. In the example below, cell D1 has word wrap turned on with text rotation set to “Rotate Text Up” and text alignment set to vertical center.

Other alignment options
Text rotated to display up and wrap on 3 lines



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