spreadsheets

Parentheses in a Formula

In the formula for percent change we used in the previous section, parentheses ( ) were included in the formula:

=(F5-B5)/B5*100

The parentheses in this formula are very important. These tell the spreadsheet to subtract the number of homicides in 2004 (B5) from the number of homicides in 2008 (F5) first, and then divide that amount by the number of homicides in 2004 (B5) and finally multiply by 100.

If you didn't include the parentheses and had just typed in =F5-B5/B5*100, the spreadsheet first would divide B5 by B5 (yielding 1). Then it would multiply that by 100. Finally it would subtract the result from F5.

The resulting calculation would be the total number of homicides in 2008 minus 100, a meaningless number.

So if you are doing a calculation involving several steps, it is important to include parentheses so you can group the numbers properly and the spreadsheet thus knows the order in which to do the calculations.