Excel Tutorial: How To Modify Number Format In Excel


Formatting numbers in Excel is a crucial skill for anyone working with data. The way numbers are displayed can significantly impact their readability and interpretation. In this tutorial, we will explore the importance of number formatting in Excel and how it affects the presentation of data.

Key Takeaways

  • Formatting numbers in Excel is crucial for data readability and interpretation.
  • Understanding different number formats is essential for presenting data effectively.
  • Modifying and customizing number formats can improve data visualization.
  • Consistent number formatting is important for charts and tables in Excel.
  • Following best practices and avoiding common mistakes will enhance number formatting in Excel.

Understanding Number Formats in Excel

When working with numerical data in Excel, it is important to understand the different number formats available and how to select the appropriate format for different types of data.

Explanation of different number formats

Excel offers a variety of number formats to display numerical data in different ways. Some of the most commonly used formats include:

  • General: This is the default number format in Excel and is used for general display of numerical data.
  • Number: This format is used for general numerical data, and allows for specification of decimal places and thousand separators.
  • Currency: This format is used to display monetary values, with options for specifying currency symbols and decimal places.
  • Date: This format is used to display date values in various date formats.
  • Percentage: This format is used to display numerical data as percentages.

How to select the appropriate number format for different types of data

It is important to select the appropriate number format for different types of data in order to ensure that the data is displayed accurately and clearly. Here are some guidelines for selecting the appropriate number format:

  • General: Use the General format for general display of numerical data.
  • Number: Use the Number format for standard numerical data, such as quantities or measurements.
  • Currency: Use the Currency format for monetary values, such as sales figures or financial data.
  • Date: Use the Date format for displaying date values in a clear and consistent format.
  • Percentage: Use the Percentage format for displaying numerical data as percentages, such as growth rates or success rates.

Modifying Number Formats in Excel

Excel provides users with the flexibility to modify number formats to suit their specific needs. Whether you want to display numbers as currency, percentages, dates, or with specific decimal places, Excel allows you to customize the number format with ease.

Step-by-step guide on how to modify number formats

  • Select the cells: Begin by selecting the cells or range of cells for which you want to modify the number format.
  • Go to the Home tab: Click on the "Home" tab in the Excel ribbon at the top of the screen.
  • Locate the Number group: In the "Number" group, you will find the number format drop-down menu. Click on the drop-down arrow to reveal the list of pre-defined number formats.
  • Choose a format: Select the desired number format from the drop-down menu. This may include options such as "General," "Number," "Currency," "Percentage," "Date," and more.
  • Customize the format: If the pre-defined formats do not meet your specific requirements, you can customize the number format using the "Format Cells" dialog box.

How to customize number formats using the Format Cells dialog box

The Format Cells dialog box provides a wide range of options for customizing number formats in Excel. To access this dialog box:

  • Right-click on the selected cells: Right-click on the selected cells and choose "Format Cells" from the context menu. Alternatively, you can go to the "Number" group in the Home tab and click on the "More Number Formats" option at the bottom of the drop-down menu.
  • Number tab: In the Format Cells dialog box, navigate to the "Number" tab if it's not already selected.
  • Customize the format: In the "Category" list, choose the type of format you want to apply, such as "Number," "Currency," "Date," etc. Then, use the options within the dialog box to customize the format, such as decimal places, symbols, negative numbers, and more. You can also create custom formats using the "Custom" category.
  • Preview the changes: As you make changes to the format, you can preview how it will appear in the "Sample" box within the dialog box.
  • Apply the format: Once you are satisfied with the customized format, click "OK" to apply it to the selected cells.

Using Custom Number Formats

In Excel, custom number formats allow you to change the way numbers appear in a cell without changing the actual value. This can be useful for displaying data in a more readable or visually appealing format.

Explanation of custom number formats

Custom number formats in Excel are codes that define the appearance of numbers, including symbols, decimal places, and thousands separators. These formats can be applied to cells to change the way the numbers are displayed, while keeping the actual values unchanged.

Examples of common custom number formats and how to create them

Here are some common custom number formats and how to create them:

  • Adding currency symbol: To display a number with a currency symbol, such as $1000, you can create a custom format using the code "$"0.00.
  • Percentage format: To display a number as a percentage, such as 25%, you can use the code 0.00%.
  • Displaying negative numbers in red: You can create a custom format to display negative numbers in red by using the code 0.00;[Red]-0.00.
  • Custom date format: To display a date in a specific format, such as mm/dd/yyyy, you can use the code mm/dd/yyyy.
  • Using text and symbols: You can combine text and symbols with numbers in a custom format, such as "Total: "0.00.

Applying Number Formatting to Charts and Tables

When working with data in Excel, it is important to ensure that the numbers in your charts and tables are displayed in a clear and easy-to-understand format. Number formatting in Excel allows you to customize the appearance of these numbers, making it easier for your audience to interpret the information.

How number formatting affects charts and tables in Excel

  • Clarity: Number formatting helps improve the clarity of the information presented in charts and tables by making the numbers easier to read and understand.
  • Consistency: Applying consistent number formatting across all data visualizations ensures a cohesive and professional look, making it easier for your audience to compare and analyze the data.
  • Emphasis: Number formatting can be used to highlight specific data points or trends, drawing attention to key insights and making the information more visually appealing.

Tips for consistent number formatting across multiple data visualizations

  • Use cell styles: Excel provides pre-defined cell styles that allow you to apply consistent formatting across multiple charts and tables. Utilize these styles to maintain a uniform look and feel throughout your data visualizations.
  • Create custom number formats: Excel allows you to create custom number formats that can be applied to multiple charts and tables. This is particularly useful when working with specific data sets that require unique formatting requirements.
  • Consider the audience: When formatting numbers in Excel, it is important to consider the preferences and needs of your audience. For example, financial data may require specific currency formatting, while scientific data may need to be displayed in scientific notation.
  • Regularly review and update: As your data changes or evolves, it is important to regularly review and update the number formatting in your charts and tables to ensure that the information remains clear and accurate.

Best Practices for Number Formatting in Excel

When working with numbers in Excel, it is important to maintain consistency in number formatting to ensure accuracy and clarity in your data. Here are some best practices to follow:

A. Tips for maintaining consistency in number formatting

  • Use cell formatting tools: Excel provides a variety of cell formatting options such as number, currency, percentage, and more. Utilize these tools to maintain a consistent format throughout your spreadsheet.
  • Create custom number formats: If the standard number formats in Excel do not meet your specific needs, you can create custom number formats to ensure consistency in how numbers are displayed.
  • Apply formatting to entire columns or rows: Instead of formatting individual cells, apply number formatting to entire columns or rows to maintain consistency across multiple data sets.
  • Use conditional formatting: Conditional formatting can be used to automatically apply specific number formats based on predefined criteria, helping to maintain consistency in your data visualization.

B. Avoiding common mistakes in number formatting

  • Mixing number formats within the same column: Avoid using different number formats within the same column as it can lead to confusion and misinterpretation of data.
  • Overusing special characters: While it may be tempting to use special characters to emphasize certain numbers, it is best to avoid overusing them as they can clutter and distract from the data.
  • Ignoring negative numbers: Ensure that negative numbers are properly formatted to maintain consistency and accuracy in financial or numerical data.
  • Forgetting to update number formats: When performing calculations or importing data into Excel, be mindful of updating number formats to ensure consistency and accuracy in the final results.


Recap: Number formatting in Excel is crucial for effectively presenting and analyzing data. It helps to improve the readability of the data and makes it easier to understand and interpret.

Encouragement: I encourage you to continue practicing and experimenting with different number formats in Excel. By doing so, you will gain a better understanding of how to effectively use this feature to enhance your spreadsheets and make your data more visually appealing and easier to comprehend. The more you practice, the more confident you will become in using number formatting to your advantage.

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