Phantom Counts

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 22, 2019)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


5

There are two closely related worksheet functions in Excel: COUNT and COUNTA. The COUNT function counts all cells that contain numbers, while the COUNTA function counts all cells that are not empty. Thus, if you use COUNTA, you would get "phantom counts" if a cell contained a space; this problem would not occur if you used the COUNT function.

What can cause "phantom counts" when using COUNT is if some cells contain the value zero. This is considered a number by Excel, so it includes that cell in the count. The confusion often pops up if you have the worksheet configured to not display zero values. Thus, the cell could appear to be empty, but really contain a zero which affects COUNT.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9201) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three less than 9?

2019-06-26 13:32:52

KAT

Thanks so much, Steve! I was just trying to figure out when to use the &. :)


2019-06-25 15:09:25

SteveJez

Kat,
The ampersand joins "<>"and 0 or "" together to form <>0 or <>"" when the formula calculates. The formula can't accept <>0 hence the need to join the comparator <> (not equal to) to the zero to form "NOT equal to 0". The "" represents a null string - nothing, empty, nada - therefore, "<>"&"" forms "NOT equal to nothing" ie. the cell must contain something.
In plain language;
The first formula equates to - sum up everything in A1:A9 that is NOT zero. It doesn't matter whether the cells content is greater than zero or less than zero, just sum it up.
The second formula equates to - count all the cells in A1:A9 that are not zero OR null (blank or empty)

I hope that is clearer than mud & helps your understanding.

Steve


2019-06-25 08:21:14

KAT

SteveJez,
Thank you so much!! Would you please explain what the ampersand does?


2019-06-25 03:54:44

SteveJez

KAT,

See the formulas below which relate to the example image ;

=SUMIFS(A1:A9,A1:A9,"<>"&0)
=COUNTIFS(A1:A9,"<>"&0,A1:A9,"<>"&"")

(see Figure 1 below)
HTH

Figure 1. count non zero


2019-06-24 15:40:35

KAT

Anyone know how to count only numbers that are above 0, or possibly below zero?


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