How to Use the Sum Function in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

To use the SUM function in Microsoft Excel, simply select a cell where you want the sum to appear, type =SUM(, select the range of cells you want to add together, and close the parentheses. Press Enter, and voila, the sum of the selected cells will appear in the cell you chose.

After you complete the action of summing up cells in Excel, the total of the selected numbers will be displayed in the cell where you entered the formula. This allows you to quickly see the sum of a range of numbers without having to add them up manually.


Microsoft Excel is one of the most widely used spreadsheet programs in the world, and for good reason. It offers a range of functions and features that make handling data easier than ever. One of the most fundamental and frequently used functions is the SUM function. Whether you’re a student, a business owner, or just someone who loves to organize personal finances, knowing how to use the SUM function can save you a lot of time and effort.

The SUM function in Excel allows you to quickly add up a range of numbers with just a few clicks. This function is incredibly versatile and can be used for simple tasks like adding up a column of numbers, or more complex calculations like summing up data based on certain criteria. In this article, we will walk you through a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the SUM function in Microsoft Excel. Let’s dive in!

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Use the SUM Function in Microsoft Excel

Before we get into the steps, it’s important to understand that the SUM function is used to add up a range of cells. This function can save you time and reduce the risk of manual errors when calculating totals.

Step 1: Select the Cell for the Sum Result

Click on the cell where you want the sum to appear.
This cell will display the total of the selected numbers after the formula is executed.

Step 2: Type the SUM Formula

Type =SUM( into the selected cell to begin the formula.
The equal sign indicates to Excel that you’re entering a formula, and SUM tells Excel what function to perform.

Step 3: Select the Range of Cells to Sum

Click and drag to select the cells you want to add together, or type the range manually, then close the parentheses.
For example, =SUM(A1:A5) will add up the numbers from cells A1 through A5.

Step 4: Press Enter to Execute the Formula

After entering the full formula, press the Enter key on your keyboard to calculate the sum.
The total of the selected cells will instantly appear in your designated cell.


Time-savingWith the SUM function, calculating totals takes mere seconds, dramatically reducing the time spent on manual addition.
AccuracyThe function minimizes the risk of errors that might occur when adding numbers manually.
VersatilityThe SUM function can be used in various ways, including summing ranges, multiple ranges, or even entire columns and rows.


Limited to Numeric ValuesThe SUM function only works with numbers, so it can’t sum cells that contain text or other non-numeric data.
Overlooking DataIf your range selection isn’t precise, you may accidentally exclude important data from your sum.
Potential for Circular ReferencesIf a SUM formula includes the cell it’s in, it can create a circular reference, causing errors in calculation.

Additional Information

When using the SUM function in Excel, it’s important to remember that it will only work with numeric values. Additionally, Excel offers variations of the SUM function, such as SUMIF and SUMIFS, which allow you to sum cells based on specific criteria. For example, SUMIF can be used to sum cells if they meet certain conditions, such as summing all sales made by a particular salesperson. Another useful tip is to use the AutoSum feature.

This is a shortcut found in the ‘Home’ tab that will automatically select a range of cells and insert the SUM formula for you. Lastly, remember that Excel is smart, but it’s not perfect. Always double-check your ranges and results to ensure accuracy. Once you get the hang of using the SUM function, you’ll be able to manage and analyze data with ease!


  1. Select the Cell for the Sum Result
  2. Type the SUM Formula
  3. Select the Range of Cells to Sum
  4. Press Enter to Execute the Formula

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the SUM function add up non-adjacent cells?

Yes, you can sum non-adjacent cells by separating the cell references with a comma within the SUM formula.

Does the SUM function include cells with formulas in them?

Absolutely. If a cell contains a formula and the result is a number, the SUM function will include it in the total.

Can I use the SUM function across different sheets?

Indeed, you can. When selecting your range, simply switch between sheets while holding the range of cells to sum.

How can I quickly sum an entire column or row?

For an entire column or row, you can use the shortcut ALT + = after selecting the first empty cell at the end of the column or row.

What happens if I edit a number within the range of a SUM function?

The sum will automatically update to reflect the change in the inputted numbers.


Mastering the SUM function in Microsoft Excel is like finding a golden key that unlocks a treasure chest of time-saving possibilities. Whether you’re tallying up expenses, calculating sales, or simply keeping track of numerical data, the SUM function is an essential tool to have in your Excel toolkit.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t shy away from experimenting with this function to become an Excel wizard. Keep this guide handy, and before you know it, you’ll be summing with the best of them!