What is the Excel number format?

Whenever you work with an Excel spreadsheet, it’s a good idea to use the appropriate number format for your data. Number formats tell your spreadsheet exactly what type of data you’re working with, such as percentages (%), currency ($), times, dates, and more.

Watch the video below to learn more about number formatting in Excel.

Why use a number format?

Number formatting not only makes your spreadsheet easier to read, but it also makes it easier to use. When you apply number formatting, you are telling the spreadsheet exactly what types of values ​​are stored in the cells. For example, the date format tells the spreadsheet that you are entering a specific calendar date. This allows the spreadsheet to better understand your data, which helps ensure your data is consistent and your formulas are calculated correctly.

If you don’t need a specific number format, spreadsheets often default to a generic number format. However, general formatting may apply some small formatting changes to your data.

Use Number Formatting Correctly
Number formatting is more than just selecting cells and applying formatting. Spreadsheets can actually automatically apply many number formats based on how you enter your data. This means you need to enter your data in a way your program can understand, and then make sure those cells use the correct number format.

percent format
One of the most useful number formats is the percent (%) format. It displays the value as a percentage, such as 20% or 55%. This is especially useful when calculating costs like sales tax or tips. When you type a percent sign (%) after a number, the percent number format is automatically applied to that cell.

date format
Whenever you use dates, you need to use a date format to tell the spreadsheet that you’re referring to a specific calendar date, such as July 15, 2014. Date formats also allow you to use a powerful set of date functions that use time and date information to calculate answers.

Spreadsheets don’t understand information the way humans do. For example, if you type October in a cell, the spreadsheet will not know that you are entering a date, so it will treat it as any other text. Instead, when you enter dates, you need to use a specific format that the spreadsheet understands, such as month/day/year (or day/month/year, depending on your country). In the example below, we would type 10/12/2014 for October 12, 2014. Then our spreadsheet will automatically apply the date number format to the cells.

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