Microsoft Excel’s automatic formatting is normally helpful for finishing spreadsheets quickly, but it’s proving to be an agent of chaos for geneticists. The Verge has learned that the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee has issued guidelines for naming human genes to prevent Excel’s automatic date formatting from altering data. MARCH1 (Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1), for example, should now be labeled MARCHF1 to stop Excel from changing it to 1-Mar.
The names of 27 genes have been changed in the past year to avoid Excel-related errors, HGNC coordinator Elspeth Bruford said. This isn’t a rare error, either, as Excel had affected about a fifth of genetics-related papers examined in a 2016 study.