by Svetlana Cheusheva, updated on

*In this short tutorial, you will find many helpful details about Excel percent format and learn how to format existing values as per cents, how to show percentage in empty cell and change numbers to percentages as you type.*

In Microsoft Excel, displaying values as percentages is very straightforward. To apply the percent format to a given cell or several cells, select them all, and then click the **Percent Style** button in the *Number* group on the *Home* tab:

Even a faster way is pressing the Ctrl + Shift + % shortcut (Excel will remind you of it every time you hover over the *Percent Style* button).

Although formatting numbers as percentages in Excel takes just a single mouse click, the results may vary depending on whether you apply the percent formatting to existing numbers or empty cells.

When you apply the **Percentage** format to cells that already contain numbers, Excel multiplies those numbers by 100 and adds the per cent sign (%) at the end. From Excel's viewpoint, this is the correct approach since 1% is one part of one hundred.

However, this way does not always work right. For example, if you have 20 in cell A1 and you apply the percentage format to it, you will get 2000% as the result, and not 20% as you might expect.

**Possible workarounds:**

- Calculate numbers as percentages before applying the percent format. For example, if your original numbers are in column A, you can enter the formula
`=A2/100`

in cell B2 and then copy it down to all other cells in column B. Then select the entire column B and click the**Percent Style**. You will get a result similar to this:

Finally, you can replace the formulas with values in column B, copy them back to column A and delete column B if you do not need it any longer.

- If you want to apply the percentage formatting to just a few numbers, you can type a number in its decimal form directly into the cell. For example, to have 28% in cell A2, type 0.28 and then apply the percentage format.

Microsoft Excel behaves differently when you enter numbers into empty cells pre-formatted as **Percentage**:

- Any number equal to or greater than 1 is converted to a percent by default. For example, 2 is turned into 2%, 20 into 20%, 2.1. into 2.1% and so on.
- Numbers smaller than 1 without a preceding zero are multiplied by 100. For example, if you type .2 in a percentage preformatted cell, you'll see 20% in that cell. However, if you enter 0.2 in the same cell, 0.2% will appear exactly as it should.

If you type 20% (with the percentage sign) directly in a cell, Excel will understand that you are entering a percent and will apply percentage formatting automatically.

When applying the percentage formatting it Excel, please keep in mind that it is nothing more but a visual representation of a real value stored in a cell. The underlying value is always stored in **decimal form**.

In other words, 20% is stored as 0.2, 2% is stored as 0.02, 0.2% is 0.002, etc. When performing calculations, Excel always deals with the underling decimal values. Please remember this fact when referencing percent cells in your formulas.

To see the real value behind percentage formatting, right-click the cell, click *Format Cells* (or press Ctrl + 1) and look in the **Sample** box under the *General* category on the *Number* tab.

Showing percentage in Excel seems to be one of the earliest tasks, right? But experienced Excel users know that a path to the goal almost never runs smooth :)

When applying the percent formatting to numbers, Excel sometimes shows rounded percentages with no decimal places, which may cause some confusion. For example, apply the percent format to an empty cell and then type 0.2 into it. What do you see? In my Excel 2013, I see 0% though I know with certainty it should be 0.2%.

To see the actual percentage instead of a rounded version, you just need to increase the number of decimal places showing. To do this, open the *Format Cells* dialog either by pressing Ctrl + 1 or right-clicking the cell and selecting *Format Cells… * from the context menu*.* Make sure the *Percentage* category is selected and specify the desired number of decimal places in the *Decimal places* box.

When done, click the OK button to save your settings.

Alternatively, you can control the number of displayed decimal places, by clicking the *Increase Decimal* or *Decrease Decimal* icons on the ribbon (*Home* tab > *Number* group):

If you want to format negative percentages in a different way, say in red font, you can create a custom number format. Open the *Format Cells* dialog again, navigate to the *Number* tab > *Custom* category and enter one of the below formats in the **Type** box:

- 00%;[Red]-0.00% - format negative percentages in red and display 2 decimal places.
- 0%;[Red]-0% - format negative percentages in red without any decimal places showing.

You can find more details about this formatting technique in the Display numbers as percentages article by Microsoft.

Compared to the previous method, Excel conditional formatting is more versatile and it lets you display negative percentages, e.g. percent decrease, in any format of your choosing.

The fastest way to create a conditional formatting rule for negative percentages is to click *Conditional formatting > Highlight cells rules > Less than* and put 0 in the "*Format cells that are LESS THAN*" box:

Then you choose one of the formatting options from the drop-down list on the right, or click *Custom Format...* at the end of the list to set up for own formatting.

For more information about creating conditional formatting rules, please see How to use conditional formatting in Excel.

This is how you work with Excel percent format. Hopefully, this knowledge will help you avoid a lot of headache when you in the future. In the next articles, we are going to learn how to calculate percentages in Excel and write formulas for percent change, percentage of a total, compound interest and more. Please stay tuned and thank you for reading!

Table of contents