You are working with a spreadsheet and want to use functions.
You write the formula, get excited about the result, and then you see “formula parsing error” that confuses and kind of fails.
Let’s walk through what this actually means and what might be causing this error message.
What is a formula parsing error?
A formula parsing error occurs when you enter a formula into a cell, and the spreadsheet software doesn’t understand what you want it to do.
It’s like trying to speak a different language without taking the time to learn it first.
The software understands what you’re saying, but it’s not enough to give you accurate results.
There are two possible reasons for this error: you have a typo in your formula, or the sequence of operations is unclear.
We’ll walk through each example so you can identify and fix them in your own formulas.
Common formula parsing errors
Typically, formula parsing errors occur for the following reasons:
Incorrect grammar – eg: type =+ instead of =, forget to put quotes around text values, put two operators together with nothing in between
incomplete grammar – For example, omit parentheses.
Another reason you might get these errors is when you’re trying to use text values where numbers are expected.
Let’s dive into the specific types of errors you may encounter:
One of the most common mistakes is the #N/A error. This happens when a formula can’t find what it’s looking for.
For example, if you use the VLOOKUP function to look up a value in a table and the value you are looking for is not in the table, you will get a #N/A error.
This happens when you try to divide a number by zero.
For example, if you have a formula =A17/B17 and the value in B17 is 0, you will get #DIV/0! mistake.
You will get this error message when the formula contains invalid cell references.
For example, if you have a formula that references cells A17:A22 and you delete row 21, the formula will return #REF! error because it no longer has a valid reference.
value! An error occurs when a formula contains invalid values.
For example, if you have a formula that multiplies two cells, and one of the cells contains text instead of a number, you will get this error.
This error occurs when the formula contains an invalid name.
For example, if you have a named range called “price” and you accidentally enter “price” in the formula, you will get #NAME? mistake.
#NUM! An error occurs when the formula contains invalid numbers.
Suppose you have a formula that separates two cells and the result is too large to display, you will get this error.
Now that we know what can cause formula parsing errors, let’s see how to fix them.
How to fix formula parsing errors
The best way to avoid formula parsing errors is to double check your grammar as you type. If you are not sure in what order the operations should be performed, please refer to the order of operations suggested by the software you are using.
If you encounter formula parsing errors, you can take the following steps to fix them:
- Check your formula entries and make sure they are correct.
- If an error occurs, use the IFERROR function and display a different result. For example “not found”.
- Check your spelling and make sure all brackets are in the correct place.
- Make sure you use the correct operator.
- Use cell references in formulas instead of hard-coding values.
- If you use text values, be sure to enclose them in quotes.
By following these steps, you can avoid formula parsing errors and get accurate results from formulas.