The formulas available to you in Excel are the reasons why most most of us love it, or are incredibly scared of it! But if you take some time to get to know Microsoft Excel, it can really be a a great asset to you. The ‘SUM’ function is one of the most commonly used functions of Excel, and it’s not really hard to guess what it does – as it does pretty much what it says on the tin! Yes boys and girls, the ‘SUM’ function will add up the numerical contents of a range of cells, which can be in rows or columns. It can also perfom any other sum that you’d like, imagine that! No only will it add stuff up, but it’s also clever enough to change automatically as the value of your cells change. Genius.

So how do we use the SUM function? Well, it’s really quite straightforward, in most cases you can even use the ‘AUTOSUM’ function where Excel will automatically sum the row or column that you need without very much effort at all from you. The syntax for the SUM function is: =SUM(number1, number2,…number30) where the numbers can be any cells or cell ranges that you specify.

e.g. =SUM(C1,C2,C3) – which would sum the values in cells C1,C2 and C3


e.g =SUM(C1:C3) – which would do exactly the same as above, summing all cells frrom C1 to C3

Lets take this simple spreadsheet below, with ticket requests for an event.  We want to know how many tickets have been requested  and how many have been distributed.

SUM Function

So to begin, we are going to use AUTOSUM to add up the number of tickets requested. To do this, we click on the cell underneath our range of numbers, whch is the one that we want the answer to appear in. In this case it is cell ‘C6‘. Next click the tab named Formulas then Autosum and hey presto! Excel will highlight the relevent cells to sum. If you need to change this, you can do so by highlighting with your mouse the cells that you want to sum. When you’re done, click ‘Enter‘. The value of your cells will be displayed.

SUM Function 2

Next, we are going to enter the same formula in column D, but this time we’ll do it manually. First click in the cell where you want to enter the formula  and then click onto the formula bar at the top of the page (the white bar underneath the toolbar). Type in =SUM(D2:D5) and hit ‘Enter‘ This should now give you the sum total of the items in column D. Clever, hey?

SUM Function 3

Note: you could also recreate this formula by autofilling it across from the formula we entered in cell ‘C6‘. Do this by clicking on cell ‘C6‘ and hover over the bottom right hand coner of the cell until you see a small black crosshair. Then left click and drag across to fill the cells that you want to replicate the formula in.

SUM Function 4

You can now try this in a number of other scenarios. Why not try and create a sum that adds up the totals of each column? Or using this scenario, how about trying a formula that identifies the difference between tickets requested and tickets sent out?

Steph Middleton is MD of Outhouse, an experienced Virtual Assistant and self confessed Excel fanatic! For more Excel tutorials, check out our other articles.