Skip to content

Leading Zeros

Have you ever tried to enter a number that begins with zero in an Excel spreadsheet? It seems impossible; the leading zero always disappears.
Perhaps this does not matter. But if you are entering a zip code, a social security number, or a four-digit phone number — or you just need a consistent number of digits — the leading zero is crucial.
Here’s how you get the zero to stay:
  • Highlight the cells, rows, columns, or areas that need leading zeros (the cells can be blank or already have your numbers in them)
  • Right-click on the area (control-click on a Mac)
  • Click “Format Cells”
    • For zip codes, phone numbers, or social security numbers, click “Special” and choose the appropriate format.
    • For all other instances, choose “Custom.” Click the “0” (the second option in the list) and, in the cell labeled “type,” enter one zero for each digit you want in your cell: for a four digit number to appear in your cell, type “0000.”
  • Click “OK.”
Note that if you just put a zero in a cell by itself, it will stay there. But, if you put any other number in the cell after it, the zero will disappear unless you change the format to include the leading zeros.
I hope this saves you some frustration!