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ZIP Codes that start with ZERO (0)
 
Q: I'm using Microsoft Excel 2000. Whenever I type in addresses, the name, address, city, and state come out just fine. Most of the time, when I enter in a ZIP code, it looks fine as well, however if it's from a state such as Massachusetts with a leading zero (0) in the code, the zero gets chopped off and I'm left with a four-digit number. How can I fix this? >Rebecca, Tallahassee FL
 
A: Rebecca, the problem here is that Excel will apply the Number format to any cells where you only enter numbers. Excel is trying to help you by getting rid of that leading zero. It doesn't know you're trying to enter in text. The same thing would also happen if you entered in, say, Social Security Numbers without dashes. It would format the cell as a number.

How do you get around that? Well, there are a couple of ways. One way is to lead off each number with a single-quote ( ' ). This way, Excel will treat the data you're typing in as text and will not try to convert it to a number. Don't worry, you won't see the single-quote on your sheet, unless you edit the cell again.

This can sometimes be a pain, however, if you're entering in a large amount of information, and you have to put in a ZIP code for each record, you don't want to have to type in a single-quote in front of each one. That's where you can use the Format Cells command. Highlight the entire column that will have your ZIP codes in it. Right-click on the column and select Format Cells from the menu. On the Number tab, select Text from the list of options. That's it. All of the data you type into this column will now be treated as text and you shouldn't lose your leading zeros.

We teach you all about Formatting your spreadsheets for use with numbers and text in our Microsoft Excel 102 course, which is available on our Web site. If you're interested in learning about Excel, our self-paced video courses are the perfect way to get started. We have classes available for users of all skill levels with many great tips and tricks.

 


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