Merge and Unmerge Cells in Excel

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated February 19, 2022

Applies to: Microsoft® Excel® 2013, 2016, 2019, 2021 and 365 (Windows)

In Excel, you can merge cells using the Ribbon or the Format Cells dialog box. You can also access merge commands by right-clicking or using keyboard shortcuts. Typically, when a user wants to merge cells, they are trying to place longer headers in one cell (such as January Actual Sales). You can merge cells horizontally across columns or vertically across rows.

If you want to combine data from cells in a worksheet (such as first name and last name) in another cell, you can use the CONCATENATE function, the CONCAT function, the CONCATENATE operator, the TEXTJOIN function or Flash Fill.

Recommended article: How to Combine Cells in Excel using Concatenate (3 Ways)

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Merge cells options are available in the Alignment group on the Home tab in the Ribbon:

Merge cells commands on the Home tab in the Excel Ribbon.

Merging cells removes data

If you merge cells with text, only the text in the upper leftmost cell will be used and text in cells to the right (and below) will be removed. If there is data to the right or below in the cells that you are merging, a dialog box appears warning that Excel will keep the upper left values and remove other data.

Considerations when merging cells

Merged cells cause problems in lists or data sets as Excel will have difficulty associating data with merged headers or merged cells in the data with the correct headers. If you have longer headers in lists or data sets, it's best to create shorter headers in single cells above the associated data. You will not be able to sort or filter a range with merged cells.

It's usually better to use Center Across Selection rather than Merge Cells because Excel will not merge the selected cells into one cell, it will simply center the data. This command is available through the Format Cells dialog box. If you are want to merge a title across the top of a worksheet, this is usually the best choice.

Understanding Excel merge options

Excel merge options include:

  • Merge & Center – this will merge the selected cells into one cell and center the data from the upper leftmost cell across the selected cells (if cells to the right or below the upper leftmost cell in the selection contain data, it will be removed).
  • Merge Across – this will merge the selected cells into one cell  from the leftmost cell across the selected cells (if cells to the right of the leftmost cell in the selection contain data, it will be removed). It does not automatically center the data. Merge Across only works for selections across columns, not rows.
  • Merge Cells – this will merge the selected cells into one cell  from the upper leftmost cell across the selected cells (if cells to the right or below the upper leftmost cell in the selection contain data, it will be removed). It does not automatically center the data.
  • Unmerge Cells – this will unmerge a cell that has been merged.
  • Center Across Selection (in the Format Cells dialog box) – this will center the data in the selected cells but will not merge the cells into one cell.

In the following example, cells A1 to D1 have been merged using Merge & Center:

A merge cells example with a title merged across 3 cells in an Excel worksheet.

Merging cells using the Ribbon

To merge cells using the Ribbon in Excel:

  1. Select the cells you want to merge by dragging over the cells or click in the first cell and Shift-click in the last cell. The cells must be adjacent to each other.
  2. Click the Home tab in the Ribbon.
  3. In the Alignment group, click the arrow beside Merge & Center. A drop-down menu appears.
  4. Select the merge option you want. The data in the top leftmost cell or uppermost cell will be merged across the selected cells. Data in the other cells will be removed.

Options to merge cells and unmerge cells appear in the Ribbon when you click the arrow beside Merge & Center:

Merge cells drop-down menu in Excel with options to merge cells.

Merging cells using keyboard shortcuts

If you want to access commands on the Ribbon in Excel using your keyboard, you can press Alt to display key tips and then press the displayed key(s).

To merge cells using keyboard shortcuts (key tips):

  1. Select the cells you want to merge by dragging over the cells or click in the first cell and Shift-click in the last cell. The cells must be adjacent to each other.
  2. Press Alt > H > M (this is a sequential shortcut so press Alt then H then M). A drop-down menu with merge options appears in the Ribbon.
  3. Press the displayed letter for the command you want. The data in the top leftmost cell or uppermost cell will be merged across the selected cells. Data in the other cells will be removed.

The following are the keyboard or key tips shortcuts for merging and unmerging cells:

  • Merge & Center – press Alt > H > M > C.
  • Merge Across – press Alt + H + M + A.
  • Merge Cells – press Alt > H > M > M.
  • Unmerge Cells – press Alt > H > M > U.

Key tips appear in the Ribbon when you press Alt > H > M as follows to display merge options:

Merge cells drop-down menu in Excel with keyboard or keytip shortcuts to merge cells.

Unmerging cells

You can unmerge a cell that has been merged.

To unmerge a cell using the Ribbon:

  1. Select the merged cell.
  2. Click the Home tab in the Ribbon.
  3. In the Alignment group, click the arrow beside Merge & Center. A drop-down menu appears.
  4. Select Unmerge Cells.

You can also use the key tips shortcut method to unmerge a cell.

Using Center Across Selection as an alternative to merging cells

You can also use the Format Cells dialog box in Excel to access the Center Across Selection option. In this case, you are actually applying formatting and the cells are not merged. You can display the Format Cells dialog box easily by right-clicking or by pressing Ctrl + 1 (at the top of the keyboard).

To apply Center Across Selection using the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Select the cells with the data you want to center (in the leftmost cell).
  2. Press Ctrl + 1 or right-click the selected cells and select Format Cells. A dialog box appears.
  3. Click the Alignment tab.
  4. From the Horizontal drop-down menu, choose Center Across Selection.
  5. Click OK.

Center Across Selection appears in the Format Cells dialog box:

Format cells dialog box in Excel with merge cells option for Center Across Selection.

Center across selection is really the best option for merged titles.

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Summary
How to Merge Cells in Excel (4 Ways with Shortcuts)
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How to Merge Cells in Excel (4 Ways with Shortcuts)
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In Excel, you can merge cells using the Ribbon or the Format Cells dialog box. You can also access merge commands by right-clicking or using keyboard shortcuts. Typically, when a user wants to merge cells, they are trying to place longer headers in one cell (such as January Actual Sales). You can merge cells horizontally across columns or vertically across rows.
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Avantix Learning

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