Formula Basics

This guide provides an overview of formula basics. Take a closer look at the anatomy of a formula from the ground up.

Formula basics are essential skills if you want to create advanced Excel formulas.

The Parts of an Excel Formula

All formulas contain one or more built-in functions, and the formula includes the following parts:

  • Equal sign
  • Functions: SUM
  • References: B1:B4 returns all the numbers in a range of cells
  • Operators: The * (asterisk) operator multiplies numbers
  • Constants: numbers or text that you add to the formula, such as 20%
formula basics part

Insert a formula

Follow these steps to enter a formula:

  1. Select the cell
  2. Select Formula Bar
  3. Type and equal sign (=)
  4. Type the formula, for example, =SUM(B1:B4)
  5. Press Enter to execute the formula
how to insert a formula basics

Tip: There are some ways to insert a new formula. Use the Insert Function Button on the Formulas Tab to avoid mistyping words. To do that: Select the cell > Click Formulas Tab > Click Insert Function > Select the function from the list. Finally, click OK.

insert a function

Edit a formula

Editing formulas is not rocket science.

Let’s see the steps:

  1. Select the cell that contains a formula
  2. Click on the Formula bar to change the formula
  3. Press enter

Tip: Excel highlights the given range with a blue border if you are in formula editing mode.

edit a formula

Copy and Paste Formulas

You want to use the entered formula for a different range in the example. Should you type the formula again and again? No, you need only seconds to copy formulas to another location.

To copy a formula, follow the steps below:

Example 1: Adjacent cells

  1. Select the cell that contains a formula
  2. Rest your cursor in the lower-right corner while it turns into a plus sign (+)
  3. Drag the fill handle right
how-to-copy-a-formula

Example 2: Non-adjacent cells

What if you want to copy the formula to another location with non-adjacent cells?

  1. Select the cell that contains a formula
  2. Press Ctrl + C to copy the formula
  3. Right-click on the target cell
  4. Select Paste Formulas
copy-and-paste-formulas