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Aligning Positive and Negative Whole Numbers in a Column

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Aligning Positive and Negative Whole Numbers in a Column.

Peggy described a situation where she has a series of whole numbers in a table column. The negative numbers have parentheses around them, such as (2,345). Peggy is looking for a way to align the positive and negative whole numbers in a way that allows for an "implied" right parenthesis to the right of positive numbers.

One solution, if you don't have many negative numbers, is to add a right parenthesis to the positive numbers and then simply format it as white text. It will take space in the document, but be invisible on the printout.

If you have many such numbers, however, then you should consider adding decimal tabs to the column. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the column containing the numbers.
  2. Make sure the column is left justified. (Click the Align Left tool on the Formatting toolbar.)
  3. Repeatedly click the tab indicator at the left side of the Ruler until you see the symbol for a decimal tab. (It is the only symbol that has a decimal point in it.)
  4. Click on the Ruler in the area just above the selected column.
  5. Click and drag the newly added tab stop to its final position.

That's it; the numbers should align properly in the column. Notice that a decimal tab is used, even though there are no decimal points in the column. (Whole numbers have no decimal points.) Word still aligns the numbers correctly, assuming the existence of a decimal point. It even recognizes parentheses around a number as a negative sign, and aligns the numbers accordingly.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (234) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Aligning Positive and Negative Whole Numbers in a Column.

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