Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Entering Formulas in Excel.

Entering Formulas in Excel

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 11, 2016)

5

Excel allows you to use a special symbol—the equal sign—to indicate that you expect what you type next to be translated into a formula. Consider the following examples:

27 + 14
B2 + B3
= 27 + 14
= B2 + B3

At first glance, you might not see much difference between the first two examples and the last two. There is a big difference to Excel, however. The last two include equal signs, that special symbol for formulas. This means that Excel tries to perform the operation indicated in the formula—in this case, an addition operation. In the first two examples (without the equal signs), Excel translates the information as text.

There is one other way that you can enter formulas into Excel: through the use of an implied equal sign. You do this by prefacing the formula with a plus sign or a minus sign, as shown here:

-27 + 14
+B2 + B3

This method of entering formulas is archaic, at best, and supported in Excel only for compatibility with older spreadsheet programs. Once the formula is entered, Excel maintains the plus or minus sign, but automatically adds an equal sign to the start of the formula.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12330) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Entering Formulas in Excel.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Stubborn Highlighting

When you make extensive edits to a document and those edits include changing the formatting of numbered or bulleted ...

Discover More

Default Envelope Margins

When you create envelopes in Word, you may want to adjust where the return address and main address are printed. Doing so ...

Discover More

Can't Place Merge Field in Header of a Catalog Merge Document

Word can perform several different types of mail merge operations, and the type you choose can affect how you are able to ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Splitting Cells by Case

Excel provides several different ways that you can split apart the contents of a cell. One way it doesn't provide is to ...

Discover More

Listing Combinations

You can easily use the COMBIN worksheet function to determine the number of combinations that can be made from a given ...

Discover More

Extracting a State and a ZIP Code

Excel is often used to process or edit data in some way. For example, you may have a bunch of addresses from which you ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

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}] 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 seven less than 8?

2016-12-05 21:48:10

Charles

It seems that in some cases (i'm using Excel 2013) you can enter a formula without prefixing it with any kind of symbol. It seems to work with division only. Once I have entered a proper division formula (e.g. =3/2) any following division I enter in a cell(e.g. 300/2) don't need to be preceded by an equal sign to get the result. Quite strange.


2016-06-30 17:25:02

Maarten Daams

In good old Lotus 1-2-3 formulas could be written as 5+7 instead of =5+7, it's one of the few things I don't like about Excel


2016-06-13 03:40:05

Gerhard

I always start with "+" simply because on my Norwegian keyboard, the "=" requires me to press SHIFT+0. American keyboards have the "=" on the "base" (without using SHIFT)


2016-06-11 08:51:11

Russ

Why are + and - archaic? For those of us who know how to type and use the ten-key portion of our keyboard they are preferable. The = sign seems to be more time consuming and makes less sense. Why type =-2+4 when you could type -2+4 and avoid using the shift key and searching for the = sign?


2016-06-11 08:20:15

ms.qmff

want to learn vba step by step


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.