Changing the Percent Symbol

Brian asked whether it is possible to use a symbol different than the percent sign (%) to represent a percentage in a cell. This is actually rather easy to do using a custom format, as described in other ExcelTips. All you need to do is create a custom format that looks similar to this:


This displays a value followed by a pound sign, so that 12.3 would be displayed as 12.3#. To use a different symbol, just change whatever is within the quote marks. You can also get fancier with the custom format, such as this one that displays the word “widgets” instead of the percent sign and shows negative values in red:

#,##0_)"widgets";[Red](#,##0) "widgets"

The thing to remember about this approach is that the value is displayed “as is,” so to speak. When you enter a value into a cell that is formatted as a percentage, Excel can-and often does-modify the value so it is internally consistent with a percentage. For instance, enter the value 12.3 into a cell formatted as a percentage, and Excel converts it to 0.123, which is 12.3%. If you apply a custom format to a cell and then enter the value 12.3, Excel will leave it at 12.3; it won’t divide it by 100. While a display of “12.3%” and “12.3#” may look similar, the actual contents of the cell are quite different, assuming that the first is a true percentage and the second is not.

If you don’t really care whether the value in the cell is usable in formulas, another approach is that you could concatenate your own symbol to the end of the value. For instance, if you have a percentage in cell A1, you could use the following in a different cell:

=A1 * 100 & " pct"

If cell A1 contains the 12.3% (a cell value of 0.123), then the formula returns “12.3 pct” (without the quote marks). Since what is returned is actually text and no longer a numeric value, the result cannot be used in other numeric formulas.