How to Show Negative Numbers in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Showing negative numbers in Excel can be a piece of cake once you know how to do it. Basically, all you need to do is select the cells you want to format, then open up the format cells dialog box by right-clicking and selecting ‘Format Cells’. From there, you can choose the number format that displays negative numbers the way you want, such as with a minus sign, in red, or in parentheses. Simple, right?

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Show Negative Numbers in Excel

Before diving into the steps, it’s important to understand why you would want to show negative numbers differently. Perhaps you’re working on a financial report and want to make the negative numbers stand out. Or maybe you just want to have a clear visual indication of which numbers are below zero. Whatever the reason, these steps will help you achieve that.

Step 1: Select the cells with the negative numbers.

Click and drag your mouse over the cells that contain the negative numbers you want to format.

Selecting the cells is the first step because you need to tell Excel which numbers you want to change. Make sure you’ve got them all highlighted before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Open the ‘Format Cells’ dialog box.

Right-click on one of the selected cells and choose ‘Format Cells’ from the context menu.

The Format Cells dialog box is where all the magic happens. It’s like the control center for how your numbers will look in Excel.

Step 3: Go to the ‘Number’ tab.

In the Format Cells dialog box, click on the ‘Number’ tab at the top.

The Number tab is where you can find all the different formatting options for your numbers, including how to display negative numbers.

Step 4: Choose a negative number format.

Under the ‘Number’ category, choose a format for negative numbers from the options provided.

Excel provides a few different ways to show negative numbers: with a minus sign, in red, with brackets, or in red with brackets. Pick the one that suits your needs.

Step 5: Click ‘OK’ to apply the format.

After selecting the format you want, click ‘OK’ to close the dialog box and apply the new format to the selected cells.

And voilà! Your negative numbers should now be displayed in the format you chose.

After completing these steps, you’ll have negative numbers that stand out in your Excel sheet, making it easier to identify and work with them. Whether you’re analyzing data or preparing a financial report, clear formatting can make a big difference.

Tips on How to Show Negative Numbers in Excel

  • Experiment with different formats to see which one works best for your data.
  • Remember that you can always change the format later if you need to.
  • If you’re working with a large dataset, consider using conditional formatting to automatically format negative numbers.
  • Keep in mind that the way you format negative numbers can affect how they are perceived by others.
  • Don’t forget to save your Excel sheet after formatting your numbers!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I format negative numbers to show up in a different color?

Yes, you can format negative numbers to show up in red or any other color you prefer.

What if I want to use a custom format for negative numbers?

Excel allows you to create custom number formats, so you can set up your negative numbers to appear exactly how you want.

How do I apply the negative number format to new data I enter?

Once you’ve set up the format for a cell or range of cells, any new data entered that falls into the negative number category will automatically take on that format.

Can I format negative numbers in Excel for Mac?

Yes, the steps for formatting negative numbers are the same in Excel for Mac as they are in Excel for Windows.

Is it possible to format negative numbers in Excel Online?

Yes, you can format negative numbers in Excel Online, although the options may be more limited compared to the desktop version of Excel.


  1. Select the cells with the negative numbers.
  2. Open the ‘Format Cells’ dialog box.
  3. Go to the ‘Number’ tab.
  4. Choose a negative number format.
  5. Click ‘OK’ to apply the format.


So there you have it, a straightforward guide on how to show negative numbers in Excel. Whether you’re a seasoned Excel user or just getting started, understanding how to effectively display negative numbers is crucial for accurate data representation. Remember, the key is to choose a format that makes the data clear and easy to interpret. By following the steps outlined above, you can quickly apply the desired format to your negative numbers, ensuring that they stand out and convey the right message. And with the additional tips and answers to common questions, you’re well-equipped to tackle any negative number formatting challenges that come your way. So go ahead, give it a try and watch your Excel sheets transform into more understandable and visually appealing documents!

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