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: Entering Numbers in Excel.

Entering Numbers in Excel

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 12, 2014)

3

When you enter information into a cell in your worksheet, you may wonder exactly how Excel translates what you enter. Excel first tries to convert information into numbers. Numbers are just that—any of the digits (0 through 9), optionally with special characters. The most common of these special characters are the period (taken to be a decimal point), a comma between numbers, a minus sign or plus sign, and a percent sign after the number. If you use the percent sign, Excel assumes you are entering a percentage, and thereby divides the number by 100 for internal storage.

Other special characters can be used, as well. For instance, if you preface your number with a dollar sign, Excel assumes you are entering a currency amount. You can also enter numbers surrounded by parentheses—such as (123)—which is another way of indicating a negative number. The slash character (/) can be used to indicate either a fraction or a date. Finally, you can use the letter E (upper- or lowercase) to indicate that you are entering a number in scientific notation. All of these different numbers and symbols are summarized in the following table:

Symbol Meaning
 If used before a number or after a number followed by the letter E (as in 123E–45), it is taken as a negative sign. If entered between numbers, assumed first to be a date separator, unless the numbers are illegal for a date; in which case it is considered text. If entered after a number, then the entry is assumed to be text.
+ If used before a number or after a number followed by the letter E (as in 123E+45), it is ignored. If entered between or after numbers, it is considered text.
() When completely surrounding a number, assumed to be a negative sign. In all other instances (except in formulas), assumed to be text.
, When followed by at least three digits, assumed to be a hundreds separator. In all other instances, assumed to be text.
/ If entered between numbers, assumed first to be a date separator—provided the numbers can be translated to a valid date. In all other instances, assumed to be text.
$ When preceding digits, assumed to indicate that the number represents currency. In all other instances, assumed to be text.
% When following digits, assumed to indicate that the number represents a percentage. In all other instances, assumed to be text.
.When used once within an entry, assumed to be a decimal point. In all other instances, assumed to be text.
E or e When used once within an entry, assumed to indicate that the number is being entered in scientific notation. The value to the left of the E is normalized to between 1 and 10, and the value to the right is used to represent the power to which the value is raised.

Remember that when you use symbols in your numbers, they must make sense. For instance, you cannot input two decimal points or two percent signs and expect Excel to understand what you are doing. If you try entering such a nonsensical number, chances are Excel will assume you are entering text.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2090) 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: Entering Numbers in Excel.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Changing the Context (Shortcut) Menus

A shortcut menu is a great way to quickly access the commands you regularly use. If you want to modify how Context menus are ...

Discover More

Printing Non-Printing Characters

Serious users of Word often display non-printing characters on-screen so they can see them easier. If you want those ...

Discover More

Inserting the Current Month

Need to add the name of the current month to your document? Word includes a field that can make the addition easy, and it ...

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Shortcut for Selecting a Data Range

Want to select all the data in a contiguous section of a worksheet? The shortcut discussed in this tip makes it very easy.

Discover More

Selecting the Current Region

Most of Excel's commands affect whatever cells you select prior to invoking the command. Some commands, however, affect more ...

Discover More

Adjusting Formulas when Pasting

The Paste Special feature in Excel can be used to uniformly adjust values and formulas. This tip shows how powerful this ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is two less than 2?

2014-09-09 05:03:05

jelena

sorry - just setting the notifications on.


2014-09-09 05:02:00

jelena

would you know how to notate a range within a cell? e.g. 500<x<1000???


2014-07-13 19:44:00

Ingrid Kennedy

Also, if you type a single quotation mark ' before a number it is treated like text.


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.