How to Shrink a Fraction in Excel
By Sean Mann
Displaying a fraction in its most simple terms is a common technique in the field of mathematics and the business world. Reducing a fraction by hand is a multiple step process involving dividing both the top and bottom by an integer to create a new fraction with lower integer values on the top and bottom. This is repeated until it can't be divided anymore and the fraction is in its reduced form. Fortunately, Excel features a number formatting option that will automatically simplify fractions for you.
Open your spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.
Double-click the cell that contains a fraction.
Type a "=" symbol before your fraction in the cell and press the "Enter" key. For example, "16/26" becomes "=16/26" and displays as a decimal number.
Click the cell again to select it.
Select the Home tab on the Excel ribbon and click the small icon in the corner of the Number group. This opens the Format Cells window.
Select the Number tab in the Format Cells window. Click the "Fraction" category and select the fraction formatting you want to use. For example, select "Up to three digits (312/943)" to round the fraction to the nearest triple-digit fraction. The Sample box shows a preview of how the fraction will appear. The fraction formatting automatically simplifies the fraction for you.
Click the "OK" button to apply the new formatting.
Rounding to more digits than three is possible using the Custom category in the Format Cells window. Use the syntax "#????/????" to round up to four digits. Increase the number of "?" symbols to handle even larger fractions.
Using the Fraction option from the drop-down list in the Number group will round your fractions up. This will cause issues with a fraction such as 16/26 that is rounded to 5/8 when its true value is 8/13.
Even the "Up to three digits (312/943)" Fraction formatting option will have rounding issues with large fractions. For example, the fraction 1/1000 is rounded to 0.
Information in this article applies to Excel 2010. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions.
Sean Mann has been a freelance writer since 2010. With thorough knowledge and experience in technological fields such as computer software, hardware, the internet and programming, he creates online content for various websites. Mann has a Bachelor of Science in computer science from Ohio State University.