Can’t Enter Years in a Cell

Laurie has a column that she formatted using “yyyy” as a custom format. (She wants it to contain years.) However, when she starts typing years into the column, she doesn’t get what she expect. For instance, when she enter 2014 Excel converts the number to 1905. Laurie wonders why this is happening.

It is happening because of the expectations that you set for Excel. When you formatted the column using the “yyyy” custom format, you informed Excel that you wanted whatever was in the column to be considered a date. Yet, you didn’t enter a date into the cells-you entered a simple numeric value of 2014. A date would be something such as 1/1/2014 or 1/1/14; these would display the year just fine because they are dates, as Excel expects.

So why does entering just 2014 cause 1905 to be displayed? Because Excel, in trying to make sense of the entry as a date, assumes you are entering a number of days. Internally, dates are stored as a serial number that indicates the number of days since 1/1/1900, with 1 representing 1/1/1900, 2 representing 1/2/1900, 3 representing 1/3/1900, and so on.

It just so happens that the number 2014 represents the date 7/6/1905 (July 6, 1905), which your formatting says should be displayed as simply 1905-the year portion of that valid date. In fact, you can see that date if you select the cell again after trying to enter 2014. Up in the formula bar you’ll see how Excel converted your entry into a valid date.

The solution depends on what you want to do with the information in the column. If you simply want to enter a bunch of years, don’t format the column as dates. The General format or some other numeric format will work just fine. If, instead, you want actual dates, then you’ll need to enter them as such: 1/1/2014, etc.