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In a nutshell...

Formatting is the term that's used when we change the way data looks. It can be a permanent change or just a temporary change for some other purpose.

As an example: You may have postcodes in your data like this 'st163ju', but would prefer them to look like 'ST16 3JU'. (This is useful if you want your targeted mail campaign delivered to the correct address). This simple formatting technique involves capitalising the letters and putting a space in the correct place.

Tell me more...

The possibilities are endless but I'll list some of the functions I commonly use on a day-to-day basis.

• Deleting certain characters.
• Extracting a certain word or a words provided in a list.
• Removing all letter characters making sure only numbers remain.
• Removing all numeric characters making sure only letters remain
• Deleting anything that is not a letter or a number (spaces, full stops etc).
• Replacing certain letters or numbers.
• Converting dates. For example, 20071106 to 6th of November 2007.
• Determining the fiscal week number from a given date.
• Captialising the first letter of each word in someone's name.

There are many more things you can do to your data to present it exactly how you want, and quite often, many of these processes will be combined as part of a process to format the data.

NB: Although post processing of data is always possible (formatting data after you have captured it), you could save a lot of money if you have validation is in place to eliminate common inputting errors on data capture.

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