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Capture the First Word in Excel or Sheets

A common question for spreadsheet users is: how do I get only the first word from the text in a single cell?

Luckily, if you know which formula to use, accomplishing this task is very simple.

The example I use in this article is in Google Sheets, but this solution will work just as well in Excel.

How to Capture the First Word

Let’s say you have a list of full names like the example shown below.

You would use the following formula to capture the first word, or first name in this case, of the person listed in cell A2.

=LEFT(TRIM(A2), FIND(" ", TRIM(A2) ) - 1)

Here is how the formula works. The TRIM function you see used twice removes any spaces before or after the text in cell A2. This way, the only spaces left are in between the different words.

Next, the FIND function returns the location of the first space it encounters. In this case, it returns the position of the space that comes immediately after the first word.

Finally, the LEFT function returns all the characters up to the position returned by the FIND function minus one. And those are all of the characters that make up the first word from the text.

And now that you have your first formula written, all you have to do is use the fill handle to drag the formula down for the remaining names.

And that is how you can capture the first word from the text in your cells.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. This is so helpful! I have a question though. Is there a way to use this formula where instead of looking for a space, it looks for a capital letter? Like in the case that instead of having “John Carter Smith” I have “JohnCarterSmith”? No worries if not, I was just wondering about it!

    1. Hey there! That’s a great question.
      Unfortunately, there is no simple way I can think of to split text based on the position of capital letters vs lowercase letters. I’m sorry that I don’t have an answer for you at this time.

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