Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Unique Date Displays.

Unique Date Displays

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 31, 2013)

Jon requested help on how to subtract two dates and display the result such that the years were on the left of the decimal and the months on the right. Thus, if you subtracted January 7, 1985 from August 12, 2013, the result would be 28.7. The easiest way to do this is to simply do your date subtractions as regular, and then use a custom format to display the result. For instance, if the lower date were in cell A2 and the higher date in B2, you could use the following formula in C2:
=B2-A2
You would then follow these steps to format the display of the result in cell C2:
  1. Select the cell. (In this case, cell C2.)
  2. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the small icon at the lower-right corner of the Number group. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Number tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  6. In the Category list, at the left side of the dialog box, choose Custom.
  7. In the Type box, at the left of the dialog box, enter the following format: yy.m
  8. Click on OK.
The result is that C2 shows the number of years to the left of the decimal and the number of months to the right. The problem with this is that it will always vary the number of months from 1 to 12, rather than 0 to 11, as one would expect if you were looking for elapsed months. To overcome this, you could enter the following formula in cell C2:
=(YEAR(B2)-YEAR(A2))+(MONTH(B2)-MONTH(A2))/100
This formula returns the number of years on the left of the decimal and the number of months on the right. The months are always expressed using two decimal places, however. If you wanted to make sure that the months were expressed with no leading zeros, then you would use this formula variation:
=VALUE(ABS(YEAR(B2)-YEAR(A2)) & "." & ABS(MONTH(B2)-MONTH(A2)))

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11057) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Unique Date Displays.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Setting Web Fonts

If you intend to generate a Web page from your document, you need to be concerned with the fonts that Word will use. Here's ...

Discover More

Controlling the Printing of Highlighting

Using Word's built-in highlighter tool can be a great way to add markup to a document and attract a reader's eyes to specific ...

Discover More

Comparing Workbooks

Do you need to compare two workbooks to each other? While you can use specialized third-party software to do the comparisons, ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Calculating the First Business Day of the Month

Want to know which day of the month is the first business day? The easiest way to determine the date is to use the WORKDAY ...

Discover More

Entering Dates without Separators

When doing data entry into a worksheet, you might want to enter dates without the need to type the separators that are ...

Discover More

Unique Military Date Format

Some industries (such as the military) have special formatting that they use to represent dates. Here is one such format and ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 9 + 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.