This order of operations can be expressed by the mnemonic phrase “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” which stands for: Parentheses Exponents Multiplication and Division Addition and Subtraction Let’s take a look. Our first example is “3 plus 4 divided by 2”. Without any parentheses, Excel will perform division first, then addition. So, 4 divided by 2 = 2, plus 3, which equals 5. If we want Excel to add 3 and 4 together first, we need to add parentheses around the 3 and 4. Now, Excel will evaluate the formula as 3 + 4 = 7, divided by 2 = 3.5. Our next example is “5 minus 3 squared”. Without parentheses, Excel will evaluate this as 5 minus 3 squared—solving the exponent first. So, 5 minus 9 = -4. If we want Excel to carry out the subtraction first, we need to use parentheses around the 5 and 3. Now Excel will evaluate the formula as 5 minus 3 = 2, squared = 4. The order of operations works exactly the same with cell references. We can re-write our first example as =C9+D6/F7. Since these cells contain the same values as we used in the first example, we get the same result, 5. When we add parentheses as we did in the second example, to force Excel to evaluate addition before division, we have =(C9+D6)/F7 which gives us 3.5. Use parentheses any time you want to make sure that Excel performs one operation before another.

Dave Bruns

Hi - I’m Dave Bruns, and I run Exceljet with my wife, Lisa. Our goal is to help you work faster in Excel. We create short videos, and clear examples of formulas, functions, pivot tables, conditional formatting, and charts.