Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Controlling How Excel Interprets Percentages.

Controlling How Excel Interprets Percentages

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 13, 2019)

When you format a cell to display percentages, Excel assumes that whatever you enter into that cell in the future will be a percentage. Thus, if you enter the number.5, Excel translates the value as 50%. Likewise, if you enter .75, then Excel treats the value as 75%.

A potential problem comes into play, however, when you start to enter numbers greater than or equal to one. For instance, if you put in the number 12, do you mean 12% or 1200%? By default, Excel thinks you mean the latter. Excel includes a control that allows you to specify how you want it to interpret what you enter. If you want Excel to treat the value as 12% instead of 1200%, then you can follow these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click on Excel Options. In Excel 2010 or a later version, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click on Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box, click Advanced. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Advanced tab of the Excel Options dialog box.

  4. Make sure the Enable Automatic Percent Entry check box is selected.
  5. Click on OK.

Remember—this configuration change only comes into play for cells that are already formatted to contain percentages. It has no effect on any cells formatted in any other way.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8770) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Controlling How Excel Interprets Percentages.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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