How to Underline in Google Sheets

Dave | November 8, 2022 |

One of the most basic and useful of all the formatting functions available in google sheets is the humble underline. It’s great for titles and to add some emphasis to specific cells and can even add emphasis to a specific word or words within a cell.

There are several ways to accomplish underlining. Some quick and easy and some you might not know yet. There are fast ones and slow ones. 

Spoiler: CTRL+U (+U on Mac) is the most useful and quickest way of accomplishing underlining anywhere.

Read on and I’ll go into depth on underlining and you might just pick up a few things you didn’t know before.

How to underline in Google Sheets – 3 easy ways!

The Format Menu

One of the first things you might notice about a new Google Sheet is that there is no Underline button in the toolbar at the top. There is in a new Google Doc as you can see below. 

Google Docs – There’s an underline button in the toolbar
Google Sheets doesn’t give you an underline button in the toolbar

Why is this? I’m guessing underlining isn’t a commonly used thing in spreadsheets. But hey, you’re here and you’re reading this, so let’s disagree on that one.

Whilst there’s no underline toolbar button, there IS an underline option in the Format menu. First, select the cell you want to underline, and then format it with an underline by clicking Format > Text > Underline. Shown below.

The Format > Text menu

Format painter

One of my favorite features of Google sheets, and one I use all the time (once I’d figured out what it did), is ‘Paint Format’.

Paint Format

Select any cell. Click the ‘Paint Format’ button and then click somewhere you’d like the format from the selected cell applied. For example, if you select an already underlined cell, you the just click ‘Paint Format’ and select the cells you want underlined. Hey presto… it’s done.

Paint Format is handy because it copies ALL the formatting from the selected cell to the chosen destination cells. This means you can make one cell look that way you want and simply copy the formatting across to other cells by clicking that button.

Keyboard shortcuts

Whilst it’s a cool trick, it isn’t the fastest way to underline in Google sheets. That goes to the simple keyboard shortcut CTRL+U (Win, ChromeOS) or +U (Mac).

Select a cell, a row, a word within a cell, and CTRL+U is simply the fastest and quickest way of adding and removing an underline.

How do you underline specific text inside a cell in Google Sheets (partial underline)?

Remember the keyboard shortcut for underlining? CTRL+U (Win, ChromeOS) or +U (Mac). Well select a cell, and then drag to select a word within the formula bar OR double click the cell and drag within the cell to select a word… then just add an underline using the CTRL+U shortcut.

Drag to select a word within a cell and underline that word only
Drag to select a word within a cell

How do you double underline in Google Sheets?

Need even more emphasis on something? Well, unfortunately, double underlining isn’t a default feature of text in Google Sheets. You can’t double underline a word. You CAN, underline a cell by using a simple double bottom border trick.

Select a cell you want underlined. Then select borders from the toolbar, and change the border style to ‘double line’.

The border style menu with double underline selected
The border style menu – double underline selected

Once you have that selected, you need to apply a bottom border to the cell you want double underlined.

Select a cell and then click ‘bottom border’ to apply the style. 

The border menu, with apply bottom border highlighted
The apply bottom border button

Or, if you’re learning keyboard shortcuts, try ALT+SHIFT+3 to apply a bottom border quickly.

Don’t forget once you’ve applied formatting to one cell (like a double underline). It’s easy to copy it to other cells using ‘Paint Format’.

A double underlined cell using borders
A double border as an underline

How do you underline an entire row in Google Sheets?

If you have a lot of data that needs an underline, a whole column or maybe a whole row. You can simply select the entire row or column by clicking in the margin (where the column or row letters are). 

Then it’s a simple case of clicking the underline shortcut, CTRL+U (Win, ChromeOS) or + U (Mac), and the contents of the cells in the entire row will get an underline.

Select the row and use the underline shortcut to underline all the contents
You can underline everything in a row easily

Alternatively, it’s also possible to underline the row by adding a bottom border. ALT+SHIFT+3. This can be a single, double or dashed line which you can choose from the border format menu.

The border style menu with double underline selected
The border style menu – thin, thick, dotted, double

Can you insert a blank underline in Google Sheets?

Doing this really depends on what exactly you mean by a blank underline. There’s a common character on nearly every keyboard that you can use for this purpose. You can find it to the right of 0 (Zero) on top of the hyphen on most QWERTY keyboards.

SHIFT+- gives you _. You can insert as many of these as you like into a cell to give you blank underlined text.

Use SHIFT+- to insert the blank underline character
A blank underline created with SHIFT+-

So that’s about it for now…. everything you ever need to know about underlining in Google Sheets. Hope it helped!


I'm a Google Product Expert and mainly post on the subject of Google Sheets.

I've been a software engineer for over 20 years. The constant through all that time? Spreadheets.... Even though I can write programs I use them.... a lot. Sometimes there's just no better alternative!

Find out more about me here.

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