Top 5 Reasons Why Cell Displays Formula Instead of Results in Excel

Below are the top 5 most common reasons why formula text is shown in cell instead of its results. They are sorted by frequency with most popular at the top.
They apply to Excel 2013 and Excel 2016.

No equal sign before the formula

Make sure that there is an equal sign before the formula.

No equal sign before the formula in Excel

Correct formula in Excel

Formula is inside quotes or apostrophes

Check that you typed formula with no quotes or apostrophes at beginning or end.

Formula has apostrophes in Excel

Formula is inside quotes in Excel

Correct formula in Excel

Worksheet is set to display formula – not results

Hold down theCtrl and push `

Click on the Formulas Tab then check if “Show Formulas” button isn’t on.

Excel 2016 - show formulas - small screen
Excel 2016 small window – Click to enlarge

Excel 2016 - show formulas - full screen
Excel 2016 full screen window – Click to enlarge

Cell is formatted as text

Sometimes showing formula as text might be due to cell format. Change it to general to see if it helps.

  1. Right click on the cell with formula

  2. Choose Format Cells

  3. Excel 2016 format cell 1
    Click to enlarge
  4. Select Category -> General

  5. Excel 2016 format cell 2
    Click to enlarge
  6. Click OK button

Cell with formula is locked

Found that the cell I had the formula in was “locked” (Format Cells / Protection) – it would seem that this also prevents the value from showing.
De-selecting “Locked” the value appeared immediately.

(tip from our reader Clare – thank you!)

43 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons Why Cell Displays Formula Instead of Results in Excel”

  1. I know how to fix it back, but why is Excel changing my cell formats? This has been happening in various spreadsheets for the last year or so:
    I enter a formula, it works fine. Then I edit the formula, which causes Excel to reformat the cell as text. I then have to fix the format, and copy and paste my formula back into the cell to get it to show correctly. Way too many steps to making one minor edit to a formula.
    Is there a default setting that needs to be fixed? I’ve been using Excel since the late 90s, haven’t had this trouble until recently.
    Does this happen in csv files but not xls? Any insight would be helpful.

  2. thanks a lot in my case I was a victim of the accidental press of Ctrl and the key beside 1. freaked out a bit and this post helped me out of my nightmare. thanks again.

  3. Thank you! Never would have found the show formula button without this guide (I can’t even imagine how it got turned on in the first place).

  4. This is such a random, critical and frustrating issue that it seems Microsoft should have supported by now! Thank you to everyone who shared solutions! The solution that worked for my system was posted by Jira Oct 2017 explaining to find all “=” and replace them with “=”. I literally tried every tip previous and they failed for me.

  5. Hi,
    Thanks a lot for the article.
    as I found that doing this will help

    1- delet the cell content
    2- Change the cell type to General
    3- Rewrite the formula

    Enter it shall work if other solutions didn’t

  6. Tried all these things and it still didn’t work.

    Fudged around quite a bit and found that if you imported (copied) a tab (we’ll call this tab A) from another excel spreadsheet, then, called (used “=” sign) from a cell on tab A, it would display as the formula even if you did all the steps listed above.

    The solution I found was to just copy and paste (as values) all the information on the tab A into a brand new tab (We’ll call this tab B) on my own excel spreadsheet. Then, call from the values in tab B instead of tab A. This fixed the issue. Wonder what the issue is, since the Excel version of tab A and my excel spreadsheet are exactly the same?

    Didn’t find this solution anywhere while searching online so, I hope this helps somebody else that is having the same problem as I had.

  7. I found that mine was formatted for text. I changed that, but nothing happened.
    I clicked into the formula, then hit enter and that is when the value finally showed up.

  8. Hi – Great tips.

    I tried all of them but it still didn’t work.

    Found that the cell I had the formula in was “locked” (Format Cells / Protection) – it would seem that this also prevents the value from showing.

    De-selecting “Locked” the value appeared immediately.


  9. I struggled with this often and went through all of the above many times with no luck. I often just type in my functions and finally noticed that if I used lower case for the first function name it would not display correctly. When I started making sure they were upper case the problem was corrected.

  10. I have a similar problem, i am importing text from one cell to another using ‘=AO’ in the cell. Worked yesterday on one worksheet and works on only a couple of cells on this one, no indication why? any ideas?


Leave a Comment