Changing Text of Formula Result Based on Return Value

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In Microsoft Excel, a function cannot automatically format text based on the type of value it returns. However, you can create a custom number format that will return different colored text, based on whether your function returns a positive, negative, or zero value.


In Microsoft Excel, number formats are based on the following:
   [color1]positive# format;[color2]negative# format;[color3]zero# format
To have a function return up to three different types of text value, each with a different color, have the function return either a positive number, a negative number, or a zero value, and format the custom number format such that it displays text based on those values. For example, the following custom number format
will display the word "after" in red if the function returns a positive number, the word "before" in blue if the function returns a negative value, and the word "same" in green if the function returns 0.


  1. Type the following formula into a worksheet:
    A1: =IF(A5>DATEVALUE("2/28/95"),1,IF(A5<DATEVALUE("2/28/95"),-1,0))
  2. Apply the following custom number format to the cell:
  3. In cell A5, type 6/1/95.

    Cell A1 will display the word "after" and the word will be formatted in red.
  4. In cell A5, type 2/28/95.

    Cell A1 will display the word "same" and the word will be formatted in green.


"User's Guide," version 5.0, Chapter 12, "Formatting a Worksheet"

For more information about Custom Number Formats, choose the Search button in Help and type:
number formats, creating custom


Article ID: 133049 - Last Review: August 19, 2003 - Revision: 1.1
  • Microsoft Excel 95a
  • Microsoft Excel 5.0c
  • Microsoft Excel 5.0 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Excel 5.0a for Macintosh
kbinfo KB133049
Retired KB Content Disclaimer
This article was written about products for which Microsoft no longer offers support. Therefore, this article is offered "as is" and will no longer be updated.

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