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Controlling How Excel Interprets Percentages

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 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: Controlling How Excel Interprets Percentages.

When you format a cell to display percentages, Excel assumes that whatever you enter into that cell in the future will be a percentage. Thus, if you enter the number.5, Excel translates the value as 50%. Likewise, if you enter .75, then Excel treats the value as 75%.

A potential problem comes into play, however, when you start to enter numbers greater than or equal to one. For instance, if you put in the number 12, do you mean 12% or 1200%? By default, Excel thinks you mean the latter. Excel includes a control that allows you to specify how you want it to interpret what you enter. If you want Excel to treat the value as 12% instead of 1200%, then you can follow these steps if you are using Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003. (The control is not available in Excel 97.)

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

  4. Make sure the Enable Automatic Percent Entry check box is selected.
  5. Click on OK.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3013) applies to Microsoft Excel 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Controlling How Excel Interprets Percentages.

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