How to Use the Excel Sum Formula

Introduction

This tutorial will demonstrate how to use the Excel SUM formula. We have some recommended prerequisites but you can dive straight into the content wherever you feel comfortable.

Prerequisites

Make sure you have Microsoft Excel installed. Installation will depend on your specific operating system.

Open Excel and create a new worksheet. Once you've opened an instance of Excel you can either navigate to the "File" menu and create a worksheet there, or press CTRL+N (or command+N on a Mac).

Remember rows run horizontally while columns run vertically.

Using Excel SUM formulas

The SUM() function in Excel allows you to add all of the numerical values for a specified cell range in a sheet.

Excel formula for adding

Using the + operator is one way to calculate a sum in Excel but it's really only applicable if you are adding 2 or 3 values, but quickly gets out of hand if you are calculating the sum of more than that. Imagine trying to use the + operator to sum just ten values. You might have to type a formula out that looks like this:

=A1+A2+A3+A4+A5+A6+A7+A8+A9+A10

Now what if you have to sum hundreds of values? This clearly isn't sustainable. This is where the SUM() formula saves the day.

Excel formulas with SUM()

A much more convenient way to add cell values is to use the SUM() function. This function enables you to add a range of cell or add multiple values.

The first thing we're gonna for this demo is to set some values that we can sum. We're gonna put values in cells A1 and A2. Navigate to the cell location by clicking it (or press the F5 shortcut and then type the cell location to jump to the location) and put some numerical values into cells A1 through A6.

Now navigate to the A8 cell below the numerical values you specified earlier and type = to begin a new formula.

A dropdown menu of formulas should appear as you type =SUM. Select a basic SUM() formula which will add the cells in column "A" and return the results in the current cell.

The next step is to put the cursor in between the parenthesis so you can state the cell range to be added, using your keyboard, hold the control key CTRL and left click on the cells you want to add. In this case, we will select from A1 down to A6.

Screenshot of the SUM function selecting range for an Excel SUM formula example

NOTE: You can also just type the cell range in manually. Just make sure to separate the range's end values with a colon (:).

When you're finished specifying the range to be calculated just press Return.

The final formula should be:

=SUM(A1:A6)

Autosum Excel shortcut

You can automatically insert the =SUM() formula so it totals the cell's column values by pressing the Alt+= keyboard shortcut (Or +shift+T on a Mac).

You can also just press the sigma button (Σ), located in the "Home" tab of Excel's interactive menu to insert an autosum formula for your column values.

Screenshot of the autosum Excel shortcut as an Excel SUM formula example

Excel SUMIF example

The SUMIF() function will add only certain cells in a range that meet a certain criteria. The condition can be passed into the formula as a second argument (delimited with a comma) and enclosed in quotation marks.

The following is an example of the SUMIF() formula that will add all cells that have values greater than 70:

=SUMIF(A1:A56, ">70")

Screenshot of an Excel SUMIF example for a Excel SUM formula

Conclusion

In this article we demonstrated how to use the Excel SUM() function. This is an extremely common command and it'll benefit you to be comfortable with this command if you're spending a lot of time with Excel. We also went over a variation of the SUM() function, the SUMIF() command, which allows you to add a condition to which cells you sum together.

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