Adding Numbers Using the SUM Formula

If you want to add a large group of numbers in a row or column, there's another way to do that quickly in a spreadsheet by using the SUM formula.

For example, in the spreadsheet on weapons used in homicides, what if you wanted to know the total number of homicides in which a firearm was not the weapon used.

To calculate that, you could add up the numbers in rows 12 - 21 for each year using the SUM formula

non firearm homicide numbers

(Note: row 22 - "Other weapons or weapons not stated" - may or may not involve a non-firearm-related homicide, so we're leaving that out of this calculation)

To use the SUM formula to calculate the number of non-firearm-related homicides in rows 12 - 21, first click on cell:


In that cell type this formula


SUM formula

Then press the enter/return key.

You'll see there were 3,969 non-firearm-related homicides in 2004.

In our formula, =SUM is shorthand for telling a spreadsheet to add up a series of numbers.

After typing =SUM, you type an opening parentheses, followed by the letter/number of the first cell in the column you want to add.

After that type a colon, then the letter/number of the last cell in the column you want to add, followed by a closing parentheses.

The colon instructs the spreadsheet to apply the SUM calculation to the numbers in all the cells between the first and last cell you’ve entered.

Adding Select Numbers with the SUM Formula

You also can add up select numbers in a column, rather than a span of them, using the SUM formula.

To do that, in the SUM formula you replace the colon with either plus signs ( + ) or commas ( , ), to separate the specific cells you want to total up.

Thus if you wanted to total up only the number of homicides in 2004 in which either poison (cell B15) or narcotics (cell B18) was involved, you would type this formula:




Either of which will add the number in cell B15 to the number in cell B18 and give you the total number of homicides involving poison or narcotics in 2004 (93).