Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Understanding operator precedence in formulas
TABLE 15.2 (continued)
Symbol
Operator
Precedence
=
Equal to
5
<
Less than
5
>
Greater than
5
You can use parentheses to override Excel’s built-in order of precedence. Expressions within
parentheses are always evaluated ﬁ rst. For example, the following formula uses parentheses
to control the order in which the calculations occur. In this case, cell B3 is subtracted from
cell B2, and the result is multiplied by cell B4:
=(B2-B3)*B4
If you enter the formula without the parentheses, Excel computes a different answer.
Because multiplication has a higher precedence, cell B3 is multiplied by cell B4. Then this
result is subtracted from cell B2, which isn’t what was intended.
The formula without parentheses looks like this:
=B2-B3*B4
It’s a good idea to use parentheses even when they aren’t strictly necessary. Doing so helps
to clarify what the formula is intended to do. For example, the following formula makes it
perfectly clear that B3 should be multiplied by B4, and the result subtracted from cell B2.
Without the parentheses, you would need to remember Excel’s order of precedence.
=B2-(B3*B4)
You can also nest parentheses within formulas — that is, put them inside other
parentheses. If you do so, Excel evaluates the most deeply nested expressions ﬁ rst — and then
works its way out. Here’s an example of a formula that uses nested parentheses:
=((B2*C2)+(B3*C3)+(B4*C4))*B6
This formula has four sets of parentheses — three sets are nested inside the fourth set.
Excel evaluates each nested set of parentheses and then sums the three results. This result
is then multiplied by the value in cell B6.
Although the preceding formula uses four sets of parentheses, only the outer set is really
necessary. If you understand operator precedence, it should be clear that you can rewrite
this formula as:
=(B2*C2+B3*C3+B4*C4)*B6
But most would agree that using the extra parentheses makes the calculation much clearer.
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