If you need to extract the first word from some text you can use a formula that uses the FIND and LEFT functions. From the example, the formula looks like this:

=LEFT(B4,FIND(" ",B4)-1)

Generic formula

=LEFT(a1,FIND(" ",a1)-1)


FIND returns the position (as a number) of the first occurrence of a space character in the text. This position, minus one, is fed into the LEFT function as num_chars.

The LEFT function then extracts characters starting at the the left side of the text, up to (position - 1).

Handling one word

If a cell contains only one word, this formula returns an error. One way to fix this problem is to wrap the original formula in the IFERROR function like so:

=IFERROR(LEFT(B4,FIND(" ",B4)-1),B4)

Translated: if an error occurs, return the original text.

Another simple way to handle the error is to append a space to the cell value before running FIND:

=LEFT(B4,FIND(" ",B4&" ")-1)

This ensures that FIND will always find at least one space, and will therefore not throw an error. When a cell contains more than one word, there is no impact because the formula works only with the first space.

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Dave Bruns

Hi - I'm Dave Bruns, and I run Exceljet with my wife, Lisa. Our goal is to help you work faster in Excel. We create short videos, and clear examples of formulas, functions, pivot tables, conditional formatting, and charts.