How to Show Negative Numbers in Brackets in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Show Negative Numbers in Brackets in Excel

If you’re working with financial data or any dataset where you need negative numbers to stand out, showing them in brackets is a good way to do it. Excel offers easy ways to format cells so that negative numbers appear in brackets, helping you quickly identify them. In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps to achieve this.

How to Show Negative Numbers in Brackets in Excel

In this section, we’ll cover the steps to format your Excel cells so that negative numbers appear in brackets. By following these steps, you’ll make your data more readable and professional-looking.

Step 1: Select the Cells You Want to Format

First, highlight the cells where you want negative numbers to appear in brackets.

Click and drag your mouse over the cells you want to format. If the cells are not next to each other, you can hold down the Ctrl key (Cmd key on Mac) while clicking on each cell.

Step 2: Open the Format Cells Dialog Box

Right-click on any of the selected cells, and then choose "Format Cells" from the context menu.

A dialog box will pop up, giving you a variety of formatting options. This is where you’ll make changes to how your numbers are displayed.

Step 3: Choose the Number Tab

In the Format Cells dialog box, click on the "Number" tab to access number formatting options.

The Number tab is where you can specify how numbers appear in the selected cells. This includes setting the format to display negative numbers in brackets.

Step 4: Select Custom from the Category List

Scroll down the list of categories in the Number tab and select "Custom".

Choosing Custom allows you to define your own number formats, including the one where negative numbers appear in brackets.

Step 5: Enter the Custom Format

In the Type field, enter the custom format code that shows negative numbers in brackets. Type the following: 0;Red

This code tells Excel to display positive numbers normally and negative numbers in red and inside brackets. You can adjust the color if you like.

After completing these steps, your selected cells will display negative numbers in brackets. This format helps make your data clearer and more organized.

Tips for Showing Negative Numbers in Brackets in Excel

  • Check Your Data: Before you format, make sure your data doesn’t include text or other non-numeric entries.
  • Use Conditional Formatting: For more advanced highlighting, consider using conditional formatting alongside brackets.
  • Color Options: You can change the color from red to any other color by replacing "Red" with another color name in the custom format.
  • Consistency: Apply this formatting consistently across similar datasets for professional-looking spreadsheets.
  • Backup: Always make a backup of your data before applying mass formatting changes, just in case something goes wrong.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply this formatting to an entire column?

Yes, you can select an entire column by clicking on the column header before starting the formatting process.

Can I use different colors for negative numbers?

Absolutely, just replace [Red] with another color name in the custom format code.

What if I make a mistake while formatting?

No worries, you can always go back to the Format Cells dialog box and change the settings or revert to the default format.

Does this work in all versions of Excel?

Yes, this method works in most versions of Excel, including Excel 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Office 365.

Can I use this format for currencies?

Yes, you can modify the custom format code to include currency symbols. For example, $0;[Red]$(-0) for US dollars.


  1. Select the cells you want to format.
  2. Right-click and choose "Format Cells."
  3. Click on the "Number" tab.
  4. Select "Custom" from the list.
  5. Enter the custom format code: 0;Red.


There you have it! With just a few clicks, you can easily show negative numbers in brackets in Excel, making your data clearer and more visually appealing. This simple formatting trick can make a big difference, especially when dealing with financial data or large datasets.

If you’re interested in learning more about Excel formatting, there are plenty of resources available online, including tutorials, forums, and official documentation. So go ahead and experiment with different formats and find what works best for you.

Feel free to share this article with others who might find it useful. And if you have any questions or tips of your own, leave a comment below. Happy Excel-ing!

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