In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about the SUBSTITUTE function in Excel. The SUBSTITUTE function is a powerful text manipulation tool that allows you to replace existing text with new text in a given string. This function is particularly useful when you need to make multiple replacements or clean up data in your spreadsheet.


The syntax for the SUBSTITUTE function is as follows:

SUBSTITUTE(text, old_text, new_text, [instance_num])


  • text is the original text or cell reference containing the text you want to modify.
  • old_text is the text you want to replace within the original text.
  • new_text is the text you want to replace the old_text with.
  • instance_num (optional) is the specific occurrence of the old_text you want to replace. If omitted, all instances of the old_text will be replaced with the new_text.


Let’s look at some examples of how to use the SUBSTITUTE function in Excel.

Example 1: Basic text replacement

Suppose you have the following text in cell A1: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

To replace the word “brown” with “red”, you can use the following formula:

=SUBSTITUTE(A1, “brown”, “red”)

The result will be: “The quick red fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Example 2: Replacing multiple instances of a text

Consider the following text in cell A1: “I love apples. Apples are my favorite fruit.”

To replace all instances of the word “apples” with “bananas”, use the following formula:

=SUBSTITUTE(A1, “apples”, “bananas”)

The result will be: “I love bananas. Bananas are my favorite fruit.”

Example 3: Replacing a specific instance of a text

Using the same text as in Example 2, suppose you only want to replace the first occurrence of the word “apples”. You can use the following formula:

=SUBSTITUTE(A1, “apples”, “bananas”, 1)

The result will be: “I love bananas. Apples are my favorite fruit.”

SUBSTITUTE Tips & Tricks

Here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of the SUBSTITUTE function in Excel:

  1. Use the SUBSTITUTE function to remove unwanted characters from a text string by replacing them with an empty string (“”). For example, to remove all spaces from a text, use the following formula:
  2. =SUBSTITUTE(A1, ” “, “”)

  3. Combine SUBSTITUTE with other text functions like LEFT, RIGHT, MID, or LEN to perform more complex text manipulations.
  4. Use SUBSTITUTE to replace line breaks (carriage returns) with spaces or other characters. To do this, use the CHAR function to represent the line break character. For example, to replace line breaks with spaces, use the following formula:
  5. =SUBSTITUTE(A1, CHAR(10), ” “)

Common Mistakes When Using SUBSTITUTE

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using the SUBSTITUTE function:

  1. Not enclosing text arguments in double quotes. Remember that text values, including old_text and new_text, must be enclosed in double quotes.
  2. Using the wrong function for case-sensitive replacements. The SUBSTITUTE function is not case-sensitive. If you need to perform a case-sensitive replacement, use the REPLACE function instead.
  3. Forgetting to specify the instance_num argument when you only want to replace a specific occurrence of the old_text. By default, SUBSTITUTE will replace all instances of the old_text if the instance_num argument is omitted.

Why Isn’t My SUBSTITUTE Working?

If your SUBSTITUTE function isn’t working as expected, consider the following troubleshooting tips:

  1. Check for extra spaces or non-printable characters in your text. These can cause the SUBSTITUTE function to not find the old_text you’re trying to replace. You can use the TRIM and CLEAN functions to remove extra spaces and non-printable characters, respectively.
  2. Ensure that your old_text and new_text arguments are enclosed in double quotes.
  3. Verify that you’re using the correct function for your needs. If you need case-sensitive replacements or want to replace text based on position, consider using the REPLACE function instead.

SUBSTITUTE: Related Formulae

Here are some related formulae that you might find useful when working with text in Excel:

  1. REPLACE: Use this function to replace text based on its position within a text string. This function is also case-sensitive.
  2. LEFT, RIGHT, MID: These functions allow you to extract specific portions of a text string based on position.
  3. LEN: Use this function to determine the length of a text string.
  4. TRIM: This function removes extra spaces from a text string, leaving only single spaces between words and no leading or trailing spaces.
  5. CLEAN: Use this function to remove non-printable characters from a text string.

With this comprehensive guide, you should now have a solid understanding of the SUBSTITUTE function in Excel and how to use it effectively in your spreadsheets. Happy substituting!


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