How to Write Reports Without Merging Cells in Excel

How to Write Reports Without Merging Cells in Excel

Discover efficient ways to organize your Excel reports without merging cells. Learn how to use horizontal and vertical data sorting for a neater and more flexible approach to data presentation. Say goodbye to formatting hassles and hello to streamlined reporting in Excel.

In the world of spreadsheets and data analysis, Excel reigns supreme. It’s the go-to tool for creating reports, managing data, and presenting information. However, when it comes to organizing reports in Excel, many people resort to merging cells to achieve a desired format. While merging cells can be helpful in some cases, it can also complicate your spreadsheet and make it less flexible. In this blog post, we’ll explore two smart ways to organize reports in Excel without the need for merging cells: Horizontal Data Sort and Vertical Data Sort.


1. The Problem with Merged Cells

Before diving into our alternative methods, let’s briefly touch on why merging cells can be problematic. When you merge cells in Excel, you combine multiple cells into one, often to create a visually appealing header or label.

  1. Data Misalignment: Merging cells often leads to data misalignment. When you have merged cells across rows or columns and attempt to sort, filter, or manipulate data, you may encounter issues where data no longer lines up correctly. This misalignment can create confusion and inaccuracies in your spreadsheet.
  2. Inflexibility: Merged cells can make your spreadsheet less flexible. Adding or deleting rows and columns within a merged area becomes complicated, as it can disrupt the merged structure and formatting. This lack of flexibility can hinder your ability to adapt the spreadsheet to changing data or reporting needs.
  3. Complex Formulas: Merged cells can complicate the use of formulas. When you have formulas referencing merged cells, it can make your formulas longer and more prone to errors. Additionally, if you decide to unmerge cells or change the structure of your spreadsheet, you’ll need to adjust formulas accordingly, which can be time-consuming and error-prone.

While it might seem like a quick fix for formatting, it has several downsides:

no merging


2. Horizontal Data Sort

Step 1: Select the Data Range

Start by selecting the entire row or rows that you want to sort horizontally. In our example, we have a dataset with columns for “Name,” “Year,” “Profit,” and “Margin Percentage.”
Select the title. “financial Performance Summary for Companies” Right click -> Format Cells (or Ctrl +1)

format cell

Step 2: Change the Text Alignment

Select “Alignment -> Horizontal” Center Across Selection”


Step 3: You will see your data is in the center without merging the cells.


2. Vertical Data Sort

Step 1: Select the Data Range, Conditional Formatting

Drag the range you need or use Ctrl+Shift+↓ then click “Conditional Formatting”
**Note: you must select the range besides the title.

conditional formatting

Step 2: Conditional Formatting / New rules

new rules

Step 3: Use a formula to determine which cells to format

  • Select formula =title(B2)=starting point (B3)
  • Click Format for next step.


Step 4: Change Format

  • Numbers -> Custom
  • Type should be ;;;
  • ;;; means:
    • Positive Numbers: Any positive number in the cell will be displayed as nothing. It essentially hides positive values.
    • Negative Numbers: Negative numbers will also be displayed as nothing, effectively hiding negative values.
    • Zero Values: Zero values will be displayed as nothing, making it appear as if there is no content in the cell.


Step 5: Change Border

  • Select None
  • remove the top line


Step 6: Result

result 2

More about Conditional Formatting

In summary, while merging cells may appear to improve the visual layout of a spreadsheet, it can introduce problems related to data alignment, flexibility, and formula complexity. It’s often advisable to explore alternative methods, such as using headers, grouping data, or formatting, to achieve the desired layout and organization in Excel without relying on merged cells