Mathematically, there are many ways of measuring central tendency or, as it is more commonly called, the average for a set of values. The most commonly calculated measure of central tendency is simple average and it is calculated by adding a group of numbers together and then dividing by the count of those numbers.

To make it easier to measure the simple average of a data set, Excel has a number of functions that will calculate the more commonly used average values. These different functions including **AVERAGE**, **MEDIAN**, and **MODE**. For this tutorial, we will be explaining how to specifically find the arithmetic mean with the **AVERAGE** function.

### AVERAGE Function Syntax and Arguments

A function's syntax refers to the layout of the function and includes the function's name, brackets, comma separators, and arguments. The syntax of the **AVERAGE** function is:

= AVERAGE ( Number1, Number2, ... Number255 )

**Number1**(required): The data to be averaged by the function.**Number2 to Number 255**(optional): Additional data values to be included in the average — the maximum number of entries allowed is 255.

**Options for entering the function and its arguments include:**

- Typing the complete function into a worksheet cell.
- Entering the function and arguments using the
**Formula Builder**. - Entering the function and arguments using Excel's
**Average Function**shortcut.

### Excel AVERAGE Function Example

Excel has a shortcut to entering the **AVERAGE** function, sometimes referred to as **AutoAverage** due to its association with the better known **AutoSum** feature – located on the **Home** **tab** of the **ribbon**.

The steps below cover how to enter the **AVERAGE** function, as shown in row four of the example image above, using the shortcut mentioned above.

**Entering the AVERAGE Function**

- Click on
**cell D4 —**the location where the formula results will be displayed. - Click on the
**Home****tab**of the**ribbon.** - Click on the
**down arrow**beside the**AutoSum**button on the**ribbon**to open the drop-down. - Click on the word
**Average**in the list to enter the**AVERAGE**function into**cell D4.** - Click on the
**Functions**icon on the toolbar above the to open the drop-down list of functions; - Select
**Average**from the list to place a blank copy of the function in**cell D4.** - By default, the function selects the numbers in the
**cell D4,**change this by highlighting**cells A4 to C4**to enter these references as arguments for the function and press the**Enter**key on the keyboard. - The number
**10**should appear in**cell D4;**this is the average of the three numbers**– 4**,**20**, and**6.**

**Keep These Notes in Mind**

- Individual cells, rather than a continuous range can be added as arguments but each cell reference must be separated by a comma.
- Text entries and cells containing Boolean values (
**TRUE**or**FALSE**) and cells that are blank are ignored by the function in**rows 6**,**8**and**9**. - After entering the function, if changes are made to the data in the selected cells, the function, by default, automatically recalculates to reflect the change.

**How AutoAverage Select Ranges**

- The default range includes only cells containing numbers, the range of selected numbers is interrupted by a cell containing text or a blank cell.
- The
**AVERAGE**function is designed to be entered at the bottom of a column of data or at the right end of a row of data; it looks first for number data above and then to the left. - Since the
**AVERAGE**function is, in effect, guessing at the range it selects for the Number argument, this selection should always be checked for correctness before pressing the**Enter**key on the keyboard to complete the function.

### Blank Cells vs. Zero Cells

**Blank Cells**

When it comes to finding average values in Excel, there is a difference between blank or empty cells and those containing a zero value. Blank cells are ignored by the **AVERAGE** function, which can be very handy since it makes finding the average for non-contiguous cells of data very easy.

**Zero Cells**

By default, Excel displays a zero in cells with a zero value – such as the result of calculations, but if this option is turned off, such cells are left blank, but still included in average calculations.

**Turn Off/On Zero Cells (Windows PC):**

- Click on the
**File**menu. - Click
**Options**in the list to open the**Excel Options**dialog box. - Click on the
**Advanced**category in the left-hand pane of the dialog box to see the available options. - In the right-hand pane, in the
**Display options for this worksheet**section, clear the checkbox for**Show a zero in cells that have zero value**checkbox. - To display zero values in cells ensure that the
**Show a zero in cells that have zero value**checkbox is selected.

**Turn Off/On Zero Cells (Mac):**

- Click on the
**Excel**menu. - Click
**Preferences**in the list to open the**Preferences**dialog box. - Click on the
**View**category option. - In the top pane, in the
**Show in Workbook**section, clear the checkbox for**Zero values**checkbox. - To display zero values in cells ensure that the
**Zero values**checkbox is selected.