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Getting Rid of Negative Zero Amounts

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Getting Rid of Negative Zero Amounts.

When you are creating a worksheet, and you format your cells to display information just the way you want, you may notice that you end up with "negative zero" amounts. Everyone learned in math classes that zero is not a negative number. So why does Excel show some zero amounts as negative?

The reason is because your formatting may call for displaying less information than Excel uses internally for its calculations. For instance, Excel keeps track of numbers out to fifteen decimal places. If your display only shows two decimal places, it is possible that a calculated value could be very small, and when rounded show as zero. If the calculated value is something like –0.000001325, then the value would show with only two digits to the right of the decimal point as –0.00. The negative sign shows, of course, because the internal value maintained by Excel is below zero.

There are a couple of ways you can solve this problem. The first is to simply round the calculated value to the desired number of decimal places. For instance, assume that this is your normal formula—the one that results in the "negative zero" values:


You can round the value in the cell by simply using the following formula instead:


This usage results in the value being rounded to two decimal places. In this way you should never end up with another "negative zero" value.

Another solution preferred by some people is to force Excel to use the same internal precision as what you have displayed in your worksheet. Just follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Excel displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Calculation tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Calculation tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. Ensure that the Precision As Displayed check box is selected.
  5. Click on OK.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2576) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Getting Rid of Negative Zero Amounts.

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Comments for this tip:

Michael (Micky) Avidan    03 Aug 2014, 11:39
This is very strange ...
I just checked the above, on four versions of 'Excel' ["2003/2007/2010/2013"] Whilethe 'Set Precision As Displayed' check box is NOT selected.
Summing a range of cells ended up with: -0.00000123 and after reducing the amount of decimals to 5 - it displayed a value: 0.00000 without(!) Minus sign.
What or where did I went wrong ?
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2015)
NOYB    02 Aug 2014, 13:46

Microsoft could alleviate a significant part of this issue by checking the operator and applying some simple rules accordingly.
If the operator is plus or minus then the result precession should the same as the operand which has the greatest precession. For instance. The precession of 3.0403 + 0.45 should be 4 decimal places.
If the operator is multiply then the result precession should be the sum of the precession of the operands. For instance. The precession of 3.0403 x 0.45 should be 6 decimal places.
I'm sure a math wizard could figure out appropriate rules for other operators as well.
Even the lowly Windows calculator knows better than to display zero as a negative value. Try it with some of your Excel calculations that result in a negative zero.
dan_h    24 Mar 2014, 01:48
This was exactly what I was looking for as well. I agree with Mike C. It is difficult to understand why Excel would randomly format an answer based off of the decimal point that isn't what is exactly entered into the cell/formula.

Thanks again, Allen.
Mike C    22 May 2012, 15:39
Hi. I completely understand the explanation. The thing is, why would this happen when I'm working with numbers that have ONLY two decimals (both entered & formatted)? If I am working with numbers with ONLY two decimals, where is this "mystery decimal" coming from? I have never added (or subtracted) dollars and cents, and got an answer with three decimal places. That would mean Excel is "making stuff up"!

andy_t    16 Feb 2012, 03:51
Excellent! The negative zero was bugging me this morning in a sheet that calculates working times and I was really glad to find your solution using ROUND().

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