How To Change Negative Numbers To Positive In Excel

How To Articles

When working with Excel, it’s common to encounter situations where you need to convert negative numbers to positive ones. Whether you’re dealing with financial data, mathematical calculations, or any other type of numerical analysis, knowing how to make this conversion is a valuable skill. In this article, I’ll walk you through the process of changing negative numbers to positive in Excel, sharing personal insights and practical tips along the way.

Understanding the ABS Function

In Excel, the ABS function is the key tool for converting negative numbers to positive. “ABS” stands for “absolute,” and it does exactly what you’d expect – it returns the absolute value of a number, which is the number’s distance from zero without considering its sign.

To use the ABS function, simply enter =ABS() into a cell and include the reference to the cell containing the negative number within the parentheses. This function will return the positive equivalent of the negative number.

Applying the ABS Function in Excel

Let’s say you have a dataset with negative numbers in column A, and you need to create a new column with their positive counterparts. Start by selecting the first cell in the new column where you want the positive numbers to appear. Then, enter =ABS(A1) to convert the negative number in cell A1 to a positive one. After hitting Enter, Excel will display the positive version of the number in the selected cell. To apply the ABS function to the entire column, you can simply drag the fill handle down to copy the formula to the rest of the cells.

Dealing with Formulas and References

When working with formulas and cell references, it’s important to understand how the ABS function behaves. If you have a formula that generates a negative result, you can simply wrap the entire formula in the ABS function to ensure that the output is always positive. For example, if you have a formula in cell B1 that results in a negative number, you can use =ABS(your_formula) in another cell to display the positive result.

Addressing Potential Pitfalls

One common mistake when using the ABS function is forgetting to update cell references when copying the formula. Always double-check that the cell references point to the correct location, especially when applying the function across multiple cells or when using it within complex formulas.


Converting negative numbers to positive in Excel is a fundamental task that can greatly impact the accuracy and clarity of your data. By using the ABS function, you can effortlessly transform negative values into their positive equivalents, allowing for seamless calculations and analysis. Remember to apply the function correctly, and always be mindful of potential pitfalls to ensure the integrity of your Excel worksheets.