Quickly Sum Columns or Rows of Numbers in Excel

Adding up columns or rows of numbers is one of the most commonly performed actions in spreadsheet programs such as Excel or ​Google Spreadsheets.

The SUM function provides a quick and easy way to carry out this task in an Excel worksheet.

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The SUM Function Syntax and Arguments

excel-sum-function-autosum.jpg
Using AutoSUM to Enter the SUM Function.

A function's syntax refers to the layout of the function and includes the function's name, brackets, and arguments.

The syntax for the SUM function is:

= SUM ( Number1 , Number2 , ... Number255 )

Number1 - (required) the first value to be summed.
- this argument can contain the actual data being summed or it can be a cell reference to the location of the data in the worksheet.

Number2, Number3, ... Number255 - (optional) additional values to be summed up to a maximum of 255.

02
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Entering the SUM Function

So popular is the SUM function that Microsoft has created two shortcuts to make it even easier to use:

  • Using the keyboard shortcut;
  • using AutoSUM on the Home tab of the ribbon.

Other options for entering the function include:

  • Using the function's dialog box;
  • Entering the function manually.
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Sum Data in Excel Using Shortcut Keys

The key combination to enter the SUM function is:

Alt + = (equal sign)

Example: Entering the SUM Function using Shortcut Keys

The following steps are used to enter the SUM function using the above shortcut keys

  1. Click on the cell where the SUM function is to be located;
  2. Press and hold down the Alt key on the keyboard;
  3. Press and release the equal sign ( = ) on the keyboard without releasing the Alt key;
  4. Release the Alt key;
  5. The SUM function should be entered into the active cell with the Insertion point or cursor located between a pair of empty round brackets;
  6. The brackets hold the function's argument - the range of cell references or numbers to be summed;
  7. Enter the function's argument:
    • using point and click with the mouse to enter individual cell references (see Note below);
    • using click and drag with the mouse to highlight a contiguous range of cells;
    • typing in the numbers or cell references manually.
  8. Once the argument has been entered, press the Enter key on the keyboard to complete the function;
  9. The answer should appear in the cell containing the function;
  10. When you click on the cell containing the answer, the completed SUM function appears in the formula bar above the worksheet;

Note: When entering the function's argument,

  • individual cell references entered by typing or pointing must be separated by commas;
  • for a range of cell references entered by typing, the start and end point cell references can be separated by a full colon ( : )
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Sum Data in Excel Using AutoSUM

For those who prefer to use the mouse rather than the keyboard, the AutoSUM shortcut located on the Home tab of the ribbon, as shown in the image above, can also be used to enter the SUM function.

The Auto part of the name AutoSUM refers to the fact that when entered using this method, the function automatically selects what it believes is the range of cells to be summed by the function.

As shown in the image above, the selected range is shaded and surrounded by an animated border known as marching ants.

Note:

  • The SUM function is designed to be entered at the bottom of a column of data or at the right end of a row of data.
  • If the SUM function is entered into a location other than these two, the range of cells selected as the function's argument may be incorrect.
  • To change the selected range, use the mouse pointer to highlight the correct range before pressing the Enter key to complete the function

To use AutoSUM,

  1. Click on the cell where the function is to be located;
  2. Press the AutoSUM icon on the ribbon;
  3. The SUM function should be entered into the active cell with the range of values to be summed;
  4. Check to see that the surrounded range - which will form the function's argument is correct;
  5. If the range is correct, press the Enter key on the keyboard to complete the function;
  6. The answer will be displayed in the cell where the function was entered;
  7. When you click on the cell containing the answer, the completed SUM function appears in the formula bar above the worksheet.
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Using the SUM Function Dialog Box

Most functions in Excel can be entered using a dialog box, which allows you to enter the arguments for the function on separate lines. The dialog box also takes care of the function's syntax - such as the opening and closing parentheses and the commas used to separate individual arguments.

Although individual numbers can be entered directly into the dialog box as arguments, it is usually best to enter the data into worksheet cells and enter the cell references as arguments for the function.

To enter the SUM function using the dialog box:

  1. Click on the cell where the results will be displayed;
  2. Click on the Formulas tab of the ribbon menu;
  3. Choose Math & Trig from the ribbon to open the function drop down list;
  4. Click on SUM in the list to bring up the function's dialog box;
  5. In the dialog box, click on the Number1 line;
  6. Highlight at least cell reference or a range of references;
  7. Click OK to complete the function and close the dialog box;
  8. The answer should appear in the selected cell.
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Your Citation
French, Ted. "Quickly Sum Columns or Rows of Numbers in Excel." ThoughtCo, Oct. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/quickly-sum-columns-or-rows-excel-3124019. French, Ted. (2017, October 30). Quickly Sum Columns or Rows of Numbers in Excel. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/quickly-sum-columns-or-rows-excel-3124019 French, Ted. "Quickly Sum Columns or Rows of Numbers in Excel." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/quickly-sum-columns-or-rows-excel-3124019 (accessed November 21, 2017).