Entering Formulas in Excel

Excel allows you to use a special symbol-the equal sign-to indicate that you expect what you type next to be translated into a formula. Consider the following examples:

27 + 14
B2 + B3
= 27 + 14
= B2 + B3

At first glance, you might not see much difference between the first two examples and the last two. There is a big difference to Excel, however. The last two include equal signs, that special symbol for formulas. This means that Excel tries to perform the operation indicated in the formula-in this case, an addition operation. In the first two examples (without the equal signs), Excel translates the information as text.

There is one other way that you can enter formulas into Excel: through the use of an implied equal sign. You do this by prefacing the formula with a plus sign or a minus sign, as shown here:

-27 + 14
+B2 + B3

This method of entering formulas is archaic, at best, and supported in Excel only for compatibility with older spreadsheet programs. Once the formula is entered, Excel maintains the plus or minus sign, but automatically adds an equal sign to the start of the formula.