Creating More Complex Formulas

In Excel complex formulas can include several operations. Use complex formulas in Excel to calculate more extensive data.

To create a complex formula using the order of operations:

In the example below, we'll use cell references along with numerical values to create a complex formula that will calculate the subtotal for a catering invoice. The formula will calculate the cost of each menu item first, then add these values.

  1. Select the cell that will contain the formula. In our example, we'll select cell C5.
    Selecting a cell
  2. Enter your formula. In our example, we'll type =B3*C3+B4*C4. This formula will follow the order of operations, first performing the multiplication: 2.79*35 = 97.65 and 2.29*20 = 45.80. It then will add these values to calculate the total: 97.65+45.80.
    Creating a complex formula
  3. Double-check your formula for accuracy, then press Enter on your keyboard. The formula will calculate and display the result. In our example, the result shows that the subtotal for the order is $143.45.
    Formula result

You can add parentheses to any equation to make it easier to read. While it won't change the result of the formula in this example, we could enclose the multiplication operations within parentheses to clarify that they will be calculated before the addition.

Formula with parentheses

Excel will not always tell you if your formula contains an error, so it's up to you to check all of your formulas. To learn how to do this, you can read the Double-Check Your Formulas lesson from our Excel Formulas tutorial.