Scale, Offset, or Change the Sign of Data in Excel

The Paste Special feature allows you to quickly do some basic mathematical operations on your data. When you’ve copied a cell, you can add, subtract, multiply or divide existing data by the value in the copied cell by using the Paste Special menu. This can be useful for scaling, offsetting, or changing the sign of data in Excel. Knowing this simple trick can save you A LOT of time.

Scaling Data in Excel

For example, let’s say you have a worksheet and you want to scale all of the force data in that worksheet by a factor of 10. You could type 10 into any cell and copy it (Ctrl-C). Select the cells that you want to scale, right-click on them, and select Paste Special.

paste special excel

Select Multiply and click OK.

paste special multiply excel

The force data will be multiplied by 10.

scale data in excel

Add an Offset to Excel Data

You can use the same technique to add an offset to the inputs. If you want to offset the data by 5, type 5 in any cell, and copy it. Select the data to be offset, right-click and select Paste Special.

You could select Add or Subtract, depending on whether you need to adjust increase or decrease the values.

paste special add excel

The data is offset by +5:

offset data excel

Change Sign of Data in Excel

Finally, you can also use this for easily changing the sign of data in a table. To change the data to negative numbers, type “-1” in an empty cell and copy it using Ctrl-C. Then, select all of the cells containing the data you want to scale, right-click on them, then choose Paste Special.

paste special excel

Again, select Multiply and click OK. All the values will change from positive to negative.

change sign of data in excel

The great thing about Paste Special is that it allows you to easily adjust your data without having to create an entirely new column.

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By Charlie Young, P.E.

Take your engineering to the next level with advanced Excel skills.