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.

Getting Rid of Negative Zero Amounts

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 16, 2015)

5

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:

=SUM(A3:A23)

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

=ROUND(SUM(A3:A23),2)

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.

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

Using Custom Add-Ins

Once you've created your custom add-in, you need to know how you or other people can use it. Here are the simple steps to ...

Discover More

AutoFilling with the Alphabet

If you need to fill a number of cells with a specific sequence of characters (such as the alphabet), there are several ways ...

Discover More

Setting Program Window Size in a Macro

The macro programming language used in Excel gives you a great many tools that allow you to modify the way that Excel appears ...

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)

Underlining Text in Cells

Want a quick way to add some underlines to your cell values? It's easy using the shortcuts provided in this tip.

Discover More

Changing Font Sizes

Want to change the size of the font within a worksheet? Excel allows you to choose from a list of sizes, as well as define ...

Discover More

Setting Cell Width and Height Using the Keyboard

Hate to take your hands off the keyboard? Here are a couple of ways you can reject the mouse and still adjust the height and ...

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 for this tip:

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. 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 3 - 0?

2014-08-03 11:39:38

Michael (Micky) Avidan

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)
ISRAEL


2014-08-02 13:46:13

NOYB


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.


2014-03-24 01:48:41

dan_h

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.


2012-05-22 15:39:22

Mike C

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"!

Thx.


2012-02-16 03:51:51

andy_t

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().


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.

Links and Sharing