If you work with a lot of numbers in Excel, it’s a good practice to highlight negative numbers in red. This makes it easier to read the data. There are various techniques you can use to highlight negative numbers in red in Excel:

Using Conditional Formatting Using Inbuilt Number Formatting Using Custom Number Formatting

Let’s explore each of these techniques in detail.

Highlight Negative Numbers in Red – Using Conditional Formatting

Excel Conditional formatting rules are applied to a cell based on the value it holds. In this case, we will check whether the value in a cell in less than 0 or not. If it is, then the cell can be highlighted in a specified color (which would be red in this case). Here are the steps to do this: All the cells with a value less than 0 would get highlighted in Light Red color with dark red text in it.

Using conditional formatting is also helpful when you want to print the reports. While you may not see a significant difference in the font color in a black and white printout, since conditional formatting highlights the entire cell, it makes the highlighted cells stand out. Caution: Conditional Formatting is volatile, which means that it recalculates whenever there is a change in the workbook. While the impact is negligible on small data sets, you may see some drag because of it when applied to large datasets.

Highlight Negative Numbers in Red – Using Inbuilt Excel Number Formatting

Excel has some inbuilt number formats that make it super easy to make negative numbers red in Excel. When you apply the ‘Number’ format, it adds two decimals to the numbers and makes the negative numbers show up in red. Something as shown below:

To do this: This would automatically add two decimal points and make the negative numbers red with a minus sign. Note that none of the techniques shown in this tutorial change the value in the cell. It only changes the way the value is displayed.

Highlight Negative Numbers in Red – Using Custom Number Formats

If the inbuilt formats are not what you want. Excel allows you to create your own custom formats. Here are the steps: This will make the negative numbers show up in red, while everything else remains the same.

How this works: There are four format types that you can customize in Excel: ;;; These formats are separated by a semicolon. You can specify the format for each type and it will show up that way in Excel. For using colors, you can specify the color in square brackets at the beginning of the format. Not all colors are supported in custom number formatting, but you can use common colors such as red, blue, green, yellow, cyan, etc. You can specify a format for any or all of these four parts. For example, if you write General;General;General;General then everything is in the General format. But if you write 0.00;-0.00;0.00;General, positive numbers are displayed with 2 decimals, negative with a negative sign and 2 decimals, zero as 0.00, and text as normal text. Similarly, you can specify the format for any of the four parts. If you mention only:

One format: It is applied to all the four sections. For example, if you just write General, it will be applied for all the four sections. Two formats: The first one is applied to positive numbers and zeros, and the second is applied to negative numbers. Text format by default becomes General. Three Formats: The first one is applied to positive numbers, the second is applied to negative numbers, the third is applied to zero, and the text disappears as nothing is specified for text.

If you want to learn all about custom number formatting, I would highly recommend Office Help section.

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