Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Summing Absolute Values.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 16, 2017)
Joseph has a worksheet that contains a list of values. Some of those values are above zero and others are below. He can use the SUM function to calculate a sum of the values, but he really wants to calculate a sum of the absolute value of each item in the list. So, the sum of the three values -33, 14, -5 would be 52 instead of -24.
There is no intrinsic function you can use to create the desired sum, but you can create a formula to perform the task. One method is to use the SUMIF function, in the following manner:
The first SUMIF sums all the values that are greater than zero, and the second sums all those less than zero. Thus, with the four values -33, 14, -5, 42, the first SUMIF would result in a sum of 56 (14 + 42) and the second would result in a sum of -38 (-33 + -5). When you subtract the second sum from the first (56 - -38) you get a final answer of 94, which is the sum of all the absolute values.
Another approach is to use the SUMPRODUCT function. The following formula will produce the desired result:
The function is typically used to multiply different elements of arrays by each other, and then sum those products. Since only one array (A1:A10) is provided, there is no multiplication done, but a sum of the desired absolute values is returned.
You can also get the desired result by using an array formula, a convenient but seldom used feature of Excel. Assuming your values are in the range A1:A10, type this formula:
Don't press Enter; instead press Ctrl+Shift+Enter, which signifies this is an array formula. If the formula is entered correctly, you'll see braces around the formula in the Formula bar:
What the formula does is internally create the intermediate column (which is an array of values) which are the individual absolute values of A1:A10. It then sums this array and displays the result.
Finally, if you prefer you could create your own user-defined function (a macro) that will return the sum of the absolute values in a range. The following is a macro that will accomplish this task:
Function SumAbs(Rng As Range) As Double Result = 0 On Error GoTo Done For Each element In Rng Result = Result + Abs(element) Next element Done: SumAbs = Result End Function
You can use the function by entering a simple formula in your worksheet:
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12615) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Summing Absolute Values.
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