Translate Fractions in Excel

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

Q. I often need to enter fractions in my Excel worksheets. I have no problems when I enter a complex fraction like 234 , but when I enter a fraction without an integer, such as 2/3 , Excel changes it to a date—February 3 in this case. I can reformat the cell, but that’s a drag. I’m sure there’s a better way to stop Excel from defaulting the fraction to a date.

A. When you enter a fraction into Excel, the application cleverly converts the number into its decimal equivalent and stores that information, yet it is shown as a fraction on the screen.

When you enter a month and day with either a dash or a forward slash ( 2-3 or 2/3 ), Excel defaults to read that as a date unless otherwise instructed. While Excel is smart enough to know you mean a fraction when you enter 2 2/3 , if you just enter just 2/3 , it defaults to the date format.

To get around the problem, just enter a 0 in front of the fraction—such as 0 2/3 —and Excel will get it right.

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