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 to create advanced formulas in Excel.

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

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