Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Editing Formulas
Using Parentheses to Control the Order of Operations
You can use as many parentheses as you want in a formula. Excel performs the calculation within
the left-most parentheses ﬁrst, and then performs the calculation within the next set of parentheses
moving to the right. For example, consider the formula =(A2–B2)–4*(C2/D2), and the values A2=32,
B2=20, C2=10, and D2=5. Excel ﬁrst takes A2 minus B2, or 32–20=12. Next, Excel takes C2 divided
by D2 since it is also in parentheses, to get 10/5=2. Excel performs the multiplication next, taking
4 times the result of C2/D2 (which is 2) to get 8. Finally, Excel subtracts 8 from the result of A2 minus
B2 (which is 12) to get 4 as the ﬁnal answer.
You can nest parentheses within parentheses if needed. Consider this formula: =((A2–B2)–4)*(C2/D2).
Excel performs the calculation in the innermost parentheses, subtracting B2 from A2, to get 12.
Next, Excel works outward to the next set of parentheses, and subtracts 4 from 12 to get 8. Excel then
takes C2 divided by D2 since it is also in parentheses, to get 2. Excel performs the multiplication last,
taking 8 times 2 to get 16 as the ﬁnal result.
You can plug these same values into a worksheet and play with the formula, changing the order of
operations to something else in order to analyze the results.
Excel does not let you enter formulas
that make no sense, such as trying to divide
something by zero. Such formulas are flagged
as errors. You learn how to identify and fix these
errors in Chapter 4, “Troubleshooting Formula
Errors.” Still, it’s easy to make errors on your
own, by accidentally referencing the wrong cell,
or forgetting to use parentheses to control the
order of operations. Luckily, editing a formula is
similar to editing other data in a worksheet.
1. Click the cell that contains the formula.
Remember, this cell displays the formula
result, and not the formula, in the cell.
However, after you click the cell, the formula
appears in the Formula bar.
2. Click within the Formula bar, or press F2 to
begin editing. Cells referenced in the formula
are surrounded by colored borders, as shown
in Figure 2-6.

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