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Formula Basics

Formulas contain information to perform a numerical calculation such as adding, subtracting, or multiplying. All formulas must start with an equal sign (=), followed by:

  • Values or cell references joined by an operator. Example: =5+3 or =A1+A2.
  • A function name followed by parentheses containing function arguments. Functions are the most common way to enter formulas in Sheets. Example: =SUM(A1:A2).

Create a Formula

  1. Select the cell where you want to enter a formula.
  2. Press =.
    How to create a formula in Google Sheets.
  3. Enter the formula.
    • Add cells by clicking them or typing their cell reference.
    • Operators include:

      + (add)

      - (subtract)

      * (multiply)

      / (divide)

  4. Press Enter when you're finished.
    How to create a formula in Google Sheets.

If you entered the formula correctly, the results of the formula will appear in the cell.

Operator Formula Example Description
= All formulas must start with an equal sign.
+ =2+2 Adds values.
- =A1-B1 Subtracts values.
* =B1*2 Multiplies values.
/ =A1/C2 Divides values.
SUM =SUM(A1:A3) Totals numbers in a range.
AVERAGE =AVERAGE(A2,B1,C3) Averages numbers in a range.

Update a Formula Result

Every time a cell that a formula references is updated, the formula result updates as well. Let's see that in action.

  1. Formulas will automatically recalculate when changes are made to referenced cells.
    How to update a formula in Google Sheets.

Edit a Formula

  1. Select the cell where you want to edit a formula.
  2. Click in the formula bar.
    How to edit a formula in Google Sheets.
  3. Edit the formula in the formula bar.
    How to edit a formula in Google Sheets.
  4. Press Enter.

The formula is edited based on the changes you made to it.

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