Excel Negative Numbers (Table of Contents)
Introduction to Negative Numbers in Excel
Negative numbers are the ones which are lower than zero and by default, they are the one has a minus symbol as a prefix in Excel. These numbers are with your sales, margin, scores, financial data every now and then and you have to deal with those with care. Though it is quite easy and simple in excel to deal with negative numbers, it may sometimes create confusion for the user due to the different visibility of the same under Excel. Especially a new user might have confusion while working on those. But, remember a simple rule, any number that has a minus sign as a prefix is a negative number. There are various ways of representing/highlighting negative numbers in Excel.
Examples of Negative Numbers in Excel
Let’s understand how to use Negative Numbers in Excel with some Examples.
Example #1 – Negative Numbers with Conditional Formatting
In this way of representing negative numbers, we check whether the number in cells is less than zero or not. If the number is less than zero, it will be colored with a specific color. Suppose we have data as shown below which consists both positive as well as negative numbers.
To highlight the negative numbers, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Select all the cells containing your data. See the screenshot below for your reference:
Step 2: Click on the Home tab button on the Excel ribbon, you can see a Conditional Formatting dropdown under the Styles group there.
Step 3: Now, click on Conditional Formatting dropdown and you can see a list of options as shown below. Navigate towards the Highlight Cell Rules and there you can see Less Than… rule. Click on it.
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Step 4: A new dialog box Less Than opens up. In that box, Put value as zero (0) within the box under Format cells that are Less Than and select appropriate cells as well as text color through the dropdown menu on right.
Click the OK button and you can see the result as below. Where all the negative numbers are colored as Red and cells are colored as light red.
Example #2 – Negative numbers with Built-in Number Formatting
Now we will see how to represent the negative numbers with the built-in number formatting in Excel.
Step 1: Select all the data from your cells as shown below:
Step 2: Navigate to Home tab under the Excel ribbon and click on the small arrow type of icon which is there to enlarge the number formatting under Number group. See the screenshot below:
A new window will pop-up named Format Cells. Here you can format the cells as well as customize the formatting of the cell as per your requirements.
Step 3: By default, the Number tab is something that gets highlighted inside the Format Cells window out of all six tabs. If it is not, you need to click on it to select. Under Number tab, select Category: as Number.
Step 4: Once you click on the Number option, on the right-hand side under the Format Cells window, you can see a sample of the formatting. Reduce the Decimal Places: to zero (0) from 2 and Select the last numbering sample which has a negative sign with it and text color as red under Negative Numbers: section. Click the OK button once done.
You can see the negative numbers are colored with text color as red. See the screenshot below:
Example #3 – Custom Number Formatting
We can use a custom number formatting of our own to represent the negative numbers. Follow the steps below for better understanding:
Step 1: Select all the cells which you wanted to format under Excel.
Step 2: Open the Format Cells dialogue box by clicking the icon that is there for number formatting. It comes from the Number group present under the Home tab.
Step 3: Under Format Cells window that opens up, select the Number tab (if it is not selected by default). Under Category, this time instead of going for Number, go for Custom; since we wanted our own custom formatting for the negative numbers.
Step 4: Now, on the right-hand side, under Type: section type the following to be able to make the negative numbers visible as bracketed in red text.
Step 5: Click the OK button and you can see the negative numbers under parentheses as well as with text color red. See the screenshot below:
This is how we can represent negative numbers in Excel so that your data reads nice and simple.
Example #4 – Convert the Negative Numbers into Positive
It becomes extremely important in some cases where you need to convert the negative values into positive ones. Follow the steps below to convert negative numbers into positives. Suppose, we have a set of negative numbers as shown below:
We have a function in Excel named ABS which can be used to convert the negative numbers into positives. We will use the same for conversion.
Step 1: In cell B2, initiate the ABS function by typing =ABS(
Step 2: Now, use the reference as A2 inside this function. A2 contains the value which we wanted to convert into a positive number.
Step 3: Close the parentheses to complete the formula and press Enter key to see the result. You can see the number is converted into a positive number as shown in the screenshot below under cell B2.
Step 4: Drag down the formula across the remaining cells under column B and you can see the negatives got converted into positives.
This is how we can deal with the negative numbers under Excel. Let’s wrap the things up with some points to be remembered:
Things to Remember
- While using Conditional Formatting to represent the negative numbers, you need to be very cautious as it is volatile in nature and any change in numbers will cause it to reassess the condition and apply again the formatting.
- While applying custom formatting, you can also add different colors for the text. Not all colors are available for text formatting. The ones which can be used are primary colors such as Black, Red, Blue, yellow, green, etc.
This has been a guide to Negative Numbers in Excel. Here we discuss How to use Negative Numbers in Excel along with practical examples and downloadable excel template. You can also go through our other suggested articles –