How to Insert a New Line in a Cell (Line Break)

Bottom line: Learn how to insert new lines in a cell and wrap the text with a keyboard shortcut.

Skill level: Beginner

Download the example file.

Excel File Icon 2021 xlsx Line Breaks in Cell with Alt Enter Shortcut.xlsx

The Keyboard Shortcut to Enter Line Breaks

Have you ever spent time trying to adjust column widths so that the text wraps perfectly into multiple lines? If so, you know how frustrating of a process this can be.

Excel Report Headers With and Without Line Breaks Comparison

One simple workaround is to add line breaks in the cell. This allows you to control exactly where the new lines begin.

The keyboard shortcut to insert a line break or new line in a cell is: Alt+Enter

Hold the Alt key and press Enter.

The Keyboard Shortcut to Insert a Line Break or New Line in Excel is Alt Enter

You use the shortcut when you are editing a cell. You can press F2 or double-click a cell to edit it.

When to Use Alt+Enter

There are a lot of different use cases for line breaks in cells. Here are a few examples, but please leave a comment below if you have any other examples/scenarios of when you use line breaks.

Wrapping Column Headers

When creating reports and financial statements, we often want the width of each column to be the same. This is especially true if you are printing the report and want to keep it on a single page wide.

Report Headers in Excel Before and After Line Breaks to Wrapt Text

In the image above I use Alt+Enter to create line breaks between the category name and year. Even if I make the individual columns wider or narrower, the category name will always be in the first line, and year in the second line.

Entering Paragraphs of Text in a Cell

Another use case is when you are entering multiple sentences or paragraphs in a single cell. You can use Alt+Enter to add new lines and also blank lines between the paragraphs.

Excel Line Breaks and Text Wrapping Between Paragraphs and Sentences in Same Cell

The line breaks make make the contents of the cell much easier to read.

Addresses in a Cell

Physical addresses typically contain multiple lines of text. I usually recommend separating the components of the address in separate cells for street address, city, state, postal code, etc.

Add Line Breaks to Address with Multiple Lines in Excel

However, there are times when you might want the entire address displayed in one cell. When this is the case, you can use Alt+Enter to add line breaks to properly format the address.

Wrap Text

It's important to note that when you use Alt+Enter in a cell, the Wrap Text property of the cell is automatically enabled. You can see the Wrap Text button enabled on the Home tab of the ribbon for the active cell.

Wrap Text is Turned On when using Alt Enter in Cell for Line Break in Excel

Wrap Text allows for the text to be displayed on multiple lines within a cell and must be turned on when you add line breaks. Again, this happens automatically so you do NOT need to press the Wrap Text button.

If you disable Wrap Text for the cell then the line breaks will not be displayed and you will see all of the text on a single line. You can toggle Wrap Text back on if you accidentally turn it off.

Conclusion

I hope that keyboard shortcut helps you with formatting your Excel reports. Check out our Excel Shortcuts Guide to learn over 270 more shortcuts, and download the free PDF version on that page.

Please leave a comment below with any other scenarios where you use Alt+Enter. Thank you! 🙂

  • I often receive many rows of data with commas in a cell like your address example. I use search and and replace to handle ALL:
    -Search on “,”
    -Replace with Ctl+j
    The Ctl+j will look invisible in the replace box, but try it and trust it. Alternately there is an ASCII character or two you can use, but I can never remember it.

    • Hi Moshe,
      Does this happen when you are editing a cell? You must first be editing the cell by double-clicking it, click in the formula bar, or press F2. Once the cell is in Edit mode you should be able to use Alt+Enter to create line breaks within the text.

  • Hey Jon, hope you’re all well!

    I use the Alt+Enter in formulas to concatenate columns and automatically put in the line breaks: ,” [alt+enter
    to next line]”, next item.

    ex: =[@[Account’#]]&” /
    “&[@[Service Address]]&”
    -“&[@CustName]

    After I’m done, select column and paste value so that the data stays put. Pretty sure I got this trick from you. ^_~

      • Forgot to mention, I usually use this to make paper logs for our techs to go do some work. Since I need to give them room to write stuff down, I may as well just stuff the info they need vertically rather than take up horizontal real estate. =)

    • And I don’t believe we have a post on that tip yet, but I’ll double-check and add it to the list for the future. It does make formulas easier to read. So, not sure if I can take credit, but thanks again for your support! 🙂

      • OK, maybe you didn’t explicitly state it, but researching thru all your lessons no doubt gave me the idea at some point ^_^

  • An ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL new tip. I am really thankful for this and many other tips from your emails. Keep it up.

  • Don’t forget about using line breaks in formulas. They’re great for making complicated formulas more readable.

    I also indent some formula lines, to show the logical structure. Unfortunately there’s no way to tab (as far as I know) so I have to use multiple spaces.

  • Formulas as mentioned by others, but especially the nested IF().
    I quite often use multi layer nested IF and Alt+Enter lines make it much easier to write, read, and understand.

  • Hi Jon, I use Alt + Enter all the time and it’s great! Just be careful when using it in header names where you’ll be importing the data into Power Query. M code is really particular about that kind of thing. The headers will show on one line in the Power Query Editor and you won’t know the line break is there until you double click on it to change the name. If you jump back to some earlier step in a query and type the header name in M Code without including the line break it can wreak havoc on everything downstream.

  • I just started using Excel in school and I love your information!
    Thank you. (BTW, I’m in my 50’s starting over)

  • Excel is a database. Line breaks are for tables and presenting text. Horrible for data.
    People are trying to use Excel as a document.
    I wish line breaks in Excel were removed as a function. Its a royal pain in the ass.

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