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Count occurrences of specific characters in an Excel cell

This tutorial introduces how to apply formulas based on the LEN and SUSTITUTE functions to count the number of times a specific character appears in an Excel cell.

How to count number of specific characters in a cell?

Generic formula

=LEN(cell_ref)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(cell_ref, "character",""))


Cell_ref: The cell contains the text you will count specific character inside. You also can directly replace the cell_ref with text enclosed in quotation marks;

Character: The character you want to count. It can be:
1. The character enclosed in quotation marks;
2. Or a reference to a cell containing the character.

How to use this formula?

1. Select a blank cell, copy the below formula into it to get the result.


In this case, it returns the result 3, which means that the character “e” appears three times in B3.

Tips: You can directly reference the character cell in the formula as below. After getting the first result, drag the Fill Handle to apply the formula to other cells.


  • 1. If the specific character is not found, it will return 0;
  • 2. The SUBSTITUTE function is case-sensitive;
  • 3. If you want to count specific character in a cell and ignore the case, please use the UPPER function inside the SUBSTITUTE as the below formula shown:

How this formula works?

  • 1. LEN(B3): This LEN function calculates the total text length of B3 and returns the result 20.
  • 2. LEN(SUBSTITUTE(B3,"e","")): The SUBSTITUTE function removes the character “e” from cell B3, and then the LEN function calculates the text length for cell B3 without the specific character “e”. Here the result is 17;
  • 3. Finally the text length without character “e” is subtracted from the total text length of the original text string and get the total count of “e” in cell B3 (20-17=3).

Related functions

Excel LEN function
The LEN function returns the number of characters in a text string.

Excel SUBSTITUTE function
The SUBSTITUTE function replaces text or characters within a text string with another text or characters.

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Comments (1)
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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
Thank you for posting. I need a quick formula to count the instances of "." in an email address. Your formula works *bows*

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