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The Anatomy of a Function

What is a Function?

A function is a predefined formula already available in either Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. (If you do not know what a formula is, you can read our previous post, Learn About Spreadsheet Formulas.)

Both Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel come with many different functions to help you perform all kinds of calculations within a spreadsheet.

The Structure of a Function

Every function has the same basic structure.

Each function contains:

  • A name
  • Open and closed parentheses
  • Zero to several arguments (anything in between the parentheses)

 

The arguments are inputs used to calculate the final result. For example, A1 and A2 are the arguments in the function below. These two arguments are used by the function (which adds them together) to generate a final result.

 

It is important to note that multiple arguments are separated by a comma. If only one are argument is used, no comma is needed.

Most functions have at least one argument; however, there are a few that have no arguments.

An excellent example is the TODAY() function. This function requires no arguments and will always calculate and return the value of the current date.

 

Adding a Function to Your Formula

To add a function to your formula, you have a few options.

You can:

  • Type in the function name and its arguments directly into your formula
  • Use the Insert Function button in Excel
  • Use the Excel Ribbon

Type In the Function

If you are familiar with the function you would like to use, you can type the function and its arguments directly into your formula.

 

This is usually the most efficient way to add functions to your spreadsheet.

Use the Insert Function Button (Excel Only)

You can also add a function by clicking the Insert Function button next to the formula bar in Excel.

 

The Insert Function dialogue box will appear. You can search for a function or select a function by first choosing a category.

 

Once you have selected the function you want, click Ok.

The Function Arguments dialog box will appear.

 

You can now use this box to enter the arguments or your function. Once you are finished, click Ok.

The function is added to the selected cell or formula.

Use the Excel Ribbon (Excel Only)

Using the Excel Ribbon, you can insert a function by going to Formulas > Insert Function. You can search for your desired function in the function library as well.

 

 Once you select the function you want, the Function Arguments dialog box will appear allowing you to set up and add the function to the spreadsheet.

And that about covers the basics of spreadsheet functions!

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