How to show negative numbers in brackets in Excel

Dec 8, 2022 | Excel Hints and Tips

Excel has some great standard formatting options in Excel included plenty for numbers but sometimes you need something a little bit different.  This is where custom formatting comes in.

Show negative numbers in red using preset formatting

If preset options work then you might as well use them so if you are happy to show negative numbers in red without the brackets then this will probably do.

  1. Go to the Home tab
  2. Select More Number Formats from the General drop down

3. Both number and currency formats have the option of showing negative numbers in red either with or without the ‘£’ sign

Showing negative numbers in red with brackets

This is a little more tricky.  We will need to create a custom format and specify the positive and negative numbers look.

  1. Go to the Home tab
  2. Select More Number Formats from the General drop down
  3. Select Custom
  4. You can either type the code you require in the top box on the right from scratch or pick a format similar to the one you need to create and then modify it.

Custom number formatting can consist of up to 4 parts.  Each part is separated by a semi colon.  You do not need to use all parts if you don’t require this.  The order of the information shown is:

Positive numbers; negative numbers; zeros; text

The following code would produce a solution we require but can be adjusted to exact requirements if needed 


custom number format

Here are the parts that can be changed to get a tailored result:

  • £ – shows a £ sign for both positive and negative value.  Can be removed if no £ sign is required or replaced with a different currency symbol like ‘$’ too
  • #,## – adds a thousand separator to the number to make larger numbers easier to read.  If removed from the format the comma disappears
  • 0.00 – shows the number to 2 decimal places.  To show 1 decimal place replace with 0.0 or nearest whole number with 0
  • Brackets – shows as brackets round the number
  • [Red] – Shows the negative number in red because it has only been added to the negative part of the format.  Other colours can be used such as [Blue], [Yellow] and [Green].  This can be added to the positive part too.

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading how to use show negative numbers in brackets in Excel, there’s some other blogs below that you might find useful:

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