# Spreadsheet Mistakes 4 - Syntax

Updated: Oct 7

**Syntax errors occur when a function is incorrect. ** Functions are formulas built into the spreadsheet - SUM(), AVERAGE(), IF(), VLOOKUP().

**You tell functions what to do by entering arguments between the parentheses. ** This is the function syntax:

=[Function Name](Argument 1, Argument 2, Argument 3...)

**Arguments must be entered in the correct order or you will have an error.**

**Some arguments are optional. However it is best practice to specify even the optional arguments. I**f you do not, the spreadsheet will assign a default value. The default value may not be what you want. If so, you will have an error.

**Spreadsheets send you a message when you have an error.** These are the syntax error messages and the reasons why they occur:

Misspelled formula

Formula does not exist

Misspelled references and ranges

Text entered without enclosing double quotation marks

Range defined without a colon

**#REF****!**

Invalid cell reference

Copy / paste cells above the cells referred by the formula, thus making an invalid cell reference

**#DIV****/0!**

You are trying to divide a number by zero

You left the divisor cell empty

**#N****/A**

You passed an unavailable value to the formula

Data is missing

Inappropriate lookup value being passed to a LOOKUP function

N/A or NA is part of the data set

You provide independent ranges – ranges that do not intersect – to the formula

Cell ranges are defined improperly (Example, missing a colon or using a space instead of mathematical operator)

**#NUM****!**

You have a value – positive or negative – that is too large for Excel to handle

You passed the wrong data or data type to a function

The variables specified to a function are the wrong type

Example: You entered text instead of a number

**########**

The column is not wide enough to accommodate a large value

The result of your formula is too wide to fit in the cell

You have formatted a negative number as a date or time value, both of which are always supposed to be positive values.

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