Excel is a powerful tool, but users can make common Excel mistakes leading to formula errors, incorrect data, and other issues. Learning how to avoid errors in Excel makes spreadsheets more accurate and reliable.

Here are seven common Excel problems and solutions to keep your spreadsheets error-free:

1. Merging Cells

Cells can be merged to fit the spreadsheet’s design, but it can cause problems with formulas. Merged cells prevent you from sorting data or selecting a range of cells.


Highlight the cells, then click “Format Cells,” “Alignment,” and “Center Across Selection” to give the cells the appearance of merging without the formula problems.

2. Formatting Dates as Text

Typing dates manually format them as text, so they can’t be referenced for formulas, Date Functions, or PivotTables.


Instead, input dates as serial numbers to display them like a date while maintaining formula functionality. Convert text dates to serial numbers by using the DATEVALUE formula.

3. Linking to External Files

Adding external links to your spreadsheet can prevent certain Excel functions from working correctly and are difficult to manage. Also, Excel may flag the source as unsafe.


Use Power Query to bring data from an external file to your spreadsheet.

4. Formatting Entire Rows and Columns

Some users click on a row or column header to shade and border cells. However, this process formats more cells than you need, making Excel work slower. The formatting can also make it difficult to find formula errors.


Apply the formatting to the cells with data only.

5. Using Excel as a Database

One common Excel issue is using your spreadsheet as your database for significant amounts of information. Excel is not designed to store and manage complex datasets. Massive amounts of data in one spreadsheet will slow down Excel and waste your PC’s computing power.


Use Microsoft Access or similar programs for databases.

6. Overwriting Data

Some users use the same spreadsheet for a new dataset by deleting old data and replacing those cells with new data. While overwriting data saves time with creating and formatting new spreadsheets, you’ll lose access to older data you may need to reference later.

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Launch a template of the workbook in a new sheet or file to keep your old data intact and record new data separately.

7. Inserting Blank Rows and Columns

Blank rows and columns make spreadsheets easier to read by separating data. However, Excel will read the data as separate lists, so functions like autofill and formulas will stop at the blank cells.


Use formatting like boldface, borders, and fill color to organize or format your data in an Excel table.

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