Concatenation is the simply the process of stringing together different pieces of information to form a new piece of data. For example, if say we have columns containing people’s title and first name and another containing their last name, we might use concatenation to create their full name. All we need to do is to string together the title, first name and last name, separated by spaces.
Excel offers two concatenation techniques. The first is to use ‘&’ (the ampersand) which is the concatenation operator: the second is to use the CONCATENATE function. To use the ampersand in our Full Name example, we would first enter an “=” sign to indicate to Excel that we want to create a function. Secondly, we would click on the cell containing the title to enable Excel add a reference to that cell to our formula.
Next, we must add a space to separate the title from the first name. To do this, we type the concatenation operator followed by a space. However, since a space is a character, it has to be enclosed in quotation marks. Thus, we would type ‘& ” ” &’. Now we click on the cell that contains the first name, then type ‘& ” ” &’ once more to add a space between the first name from the last name.
Finally, we click the cell that contains the last name and, to confirm the formula, either press the Enter key or click on the Enter button on the left of the formula bar.
Let’s now look at doing the same thing using the CONCATENATE function. When using the Insert Function command, the CONCATENATE function is found in the Text category. It allows you to string together up to 255 pieces of information. Let’s say, for example, that our title was in cell C2, our first name in D2 and our last name in E2; our formula would be ‘=CONCATENATE(C2,” “,D2,” “,E2)’.
As to which is better; there is not much to choose between them. Simply use the one which you feel makes more sense to you. One argument for using the first method is that the use of the concatenation operator is found in most scripting and programming languages. Some environments use the ampersand; others use the plus sign.