I love giving tips and advice on how to use various computer programs.
A common and frustrating problem when working in Excel is when you encounter a spreadsheet which has number formats that are not recognised as numbers. Usually this occurs where the columns are being read as text formats and cannot be converted to number formats. This is a common problem when numbers are in the European number format with the comma “,” being used as a decimal separator and a full stop used as a thousands seperator.
This article explains how to fix this number formatting problem in Excel and reformat numbers into a format which does work.
The Problem: Numbers Are Not Recognised by Excel
The below screenshot shows the problem. Column C is in a European number format which is not recognized by U.S. versions of Excel. No matter how I format column C, I can’t get it into a format which is recognized as numbers. If I click on any of these cells and try to reformat them as numbers in Excel, it does not work. The cells are in a format which cannot be recognized by Excel as numbers.
Step 1: Highlight Column and Remove the Thousands Separator
The first thing we want to do is remove the decimal point ‘.’ as a thousand separator. To do this, highlight the column with the numbers and click on find-replace. Find the decimal ‘.’ and replace it with nothing (i.e., don’t write any character in the replace box).
When we have performed this find and replace it will remove the . from the numbers, and we have a number format without the . thousands separator. This fixes half of the Excel number problem.
Step 2: Remove the Comma (,) as the Decimal Separator
European number formats use a comma (,) for a decimal place. This is not recognised by the US version of Excel. What we need to do is remove the comma and replace it with a decimal place (.) To do this, we use the find and replace function again to highlight column C and find the comma, and replace it with a full stop (.)
Once we have completed this step, the numbers will now show a . instead of a comma, for the decimal separator.
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Excel Number Problem Fixed
As we can now see, after using find and replace to remove the problematic thousands and decimal separators, we have numbers in a format which is recognised by Excel and can be summed.
More Excel Problems Solved
- Excel problems - Fix date formats
One of the most frustrating problems in Excel is having a spreadsheet which dates are in a funny format that isn’t recognised by Excel. This hub explains how to fix this problem and put these troublesome dates into a format that Excel will recognise.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Theeyeballkid
Theeyeballkid (author) on July 17, 2012:
No problem, thanks for reading, I hope it was useful.
monicamelendez from Salt Lake City on July 17, 2012:
I'm liking this series on Excel fixes. I've been trying to learn as much as I can about Excel. Thanks again!