**Excel:The syntax of functions : YOUR OBJECTIVE**

You probably already know how to carry out calculations using formulas, but now you’d like to perform some more complex calculations. *Excel’s* many *functions* permit you to do just that. In addition, you want *Excel* to automatically decide, depending on certain values, *whether* or *how* to carry out specific actions. *Excel* is equipped with more than 200 powerful *functions* that you can use for such purposes.

This learning module “ **Excel: Syntax of functions** ” will show you the general principles of using *Excel’s* *functions*.

**Excel:The syntax of functions :HOW DOES IT WORK?**

(1) Excel:The syntax of functions :How functions are structured

First of all, *Functions* have a very specific structure that you should understand in order to work with them. In the learning module – *The Function Wizard -* you learned about a tool that assists you in using *functions*. Nevertheless, if you want to modify a *function* or correct some error, you will need to know a bit more about them. And once you’ve become better acquainted with *functions*, it is possible you will want to enter them without help from the *Function Wizard*.

Each *function* always returns a single value. To determine this value, a *function* requires arguments. Arguments are values or *cell references* that you enter in a *function*. Arguments provide *functions* with the information they need to carry out their intended purpose. While some *functions* require up to five arguments, others require none at all.

Without exception, every *function* is constructed with the following elements:

Element |
Explanation |

= | An equal sign introduces a function, just as it introduces a formula. |

NAME | The function’s name is entered in uppercase letters; if you use lowercase letters, Excel will convert them to uppercase. |

( | Opening parenthesis |

Arguments | Arguments for this function; multiple arguments are separated by commas. |

) | Closing parenthesis |

For instance, appearing in the *formula bar*, a *function* might look like this:

If you click on the *function* *name* in the* formula bar*, the displayed *function* will change its appearance:

Arguments, separated by commas, will be highlighted with different colors. Cells that correspond to arguments will be framed in the same color. Just below the *formula bar*, the *function* is displayed schematically with its arguments, which are shown with meaningful names. If you click on one of the arguments in the schematic *function*, the corresponding argument will be selected in the *formula bar*:

In this way, you can easily see which part of the *function* in the *formula bar* corresponds to which argument.

Here are some examples of *functions*. You are going to work with some of them in this chapter:

Function |
Explanation |

=TODAY() | Returns the current date. Because the date is taken from your computer system, it requires no argument. |

=MONTH(B12) | Extracts the month of a particular date (in this case, from B12). |

=ROUND(D6/4,1) | Rounds the result of the first argument’s formula to one place to the right of the decimal point. |

=IF(E19>100,100,E19) | Changes the contents of the current cell to another value, depending on the current value in E19. |

=VLOOKUP(B5,O1:R5,2,0) | Searches a column of a cell matrix, and then, depending on the value in B5, returns a value from an associated cell in the matrix. |

You may have noticed from these examples that there are several kinds of arguments:

- numbers

- cells

- cell ranges

- formulas

- functions (no example)

You will also have noticed that some *functions* are very simple in structure. Maybe you are already familiar with simple *functions* such as SUM or MAX. Other *functions*, though, require more particular knowledge of their arguments and the order in which they appear. More complex *functions* should perhaps be created with the *Function Wizard*.

**(2) ****Excel:The syntax of functions: Entering functions manually**

If you frequently work with a particular *function*,* *however, and are therefore very familiar with its use, you may find it expedient to enter it directly into the *formula bar* without using the *Function Wizard*. Still, *Excel* offers some help when you do this.

First click on the cell in which you want to enter the *function*. Then click in the *formula bar*. As soon as you type the “=” sign and the first letter of the *function’s* name, a selection list will appear below the *formula bar*. All *functions* with the same first letter are listed there. The more letters of the *function’s* name that you enter, the shorter the list becomes.

Depending on which *function* in the list is currently selected, a *tooltip* will appear next to it with a brief explanation of the *function* (see illustration below). To select one of the *functions* in the list, just click it with your mouse. If you like, you can use your up- or down-arrow keys to move the selection indicator along the list.

In either case, when you press **[Tab]**, the *function* is copied into the *formula bar*. A tooltip that indicates the arguments the *function* requires will then appear beneath the *formula bar*.

To enter an argument, you can either type it in (possibly a value, possibly a *cell reference*) or when a *cell reference *is required, you can* *alternatively use your mouse to select the cell or cells. Be sure to enter a comma after each argument. The next argument that must be specified will automatically be highlighted in **bold** in the tooltip.

After you’ve entered the *function* with all its arguments, finish by pressing **[Enter]**. The result will appear in the target cell immediately. If *Excel* determines that a *function* contains one or more errors, it will indicate that in an information box or in the target cell itself.