Microsoft Excel Basics – What is Function Syntax?

When you decide to use a function, you will find that each function has a set of rules that affect the way in which the function will operate and the order in which the parameters of the function will operate. The components that are used by a function are referred to as the syntax of the function.

Every Microsoft Excel function that you work on will require you to know the syntax of the function. Essentially, what that means is that you must know where to position the values in the function to get the desired outcome. Simply positioning the wrong input values in a function can give you a very incorrect outcome.

There are a number of components that make up a function, and they include but are not limited to:

– Function Name

– Argument or Parameters

– Commas

– Brackets

Below is an example of a function using these components:

AVERAGE(D6:D10, D11:D20,E6)

The brackets in a function are important as these indicate to the application where the Arguments start and finish. The role of the commas in a function is to separate the arguments. It should be noted that in some advanced functions such as PMT, you might not want to enter a value into the argument however, you must still include a comma to maintain the correct order of the arguments. An incorrect order will provide an incorrect function result.

Whether a function has many arguments or just a couple will be totally dependent on the function. In the case of the NOW() function it has no arguments but still uses opening and closing brackets.

To insert a range of cells to be evaluated in a function use a colon by first entering the first cell to be considered and then the last cell such as using a range from C5 to C10. You would write that in a function as C5:C10. An alternative method to using the colon is to use a dot.

So What Are Function Arguments

There are essentially four types of data arguments that could be used in a function and they are Text Arguments, Numeric Arguments; Logical Value Arguments and Cell Reference Arguments. The table below explains each argument type.

Argument Example

Text “Casper”, “Fred”, “Our Target”

Numeric 340,1,-45,87.9384,-15.988

Logical Values False, True

Cell References F5, C6, $D$10; F$1

It should be noted that if you want to use a text argument then you must ensure that the text is encapsulated in double quotes.

In Microsoft Excel, it is possible to actually nest functions. A nested function refers to multiple functions used in combination to create a formula. An example of a nested function is shown below.

= AVERAGE(Max(C20:C200), F100:F200, SUM(Z100:Z600)

If you want to specify a range of cells in a function such as Z100:Z600 then all you need to do is to select the cells by dragging through the cells in the worksheet with the mouse. Alternatively, you can just type the cell range in the appropriate position of the function.