How to Sum Columns or Rows in Google Sheets

The SUM function's use and format in Google Sheets

Student doing SUMs on blackboard surrounded by teach and other students.
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Adding up rows or columns of numbers is one of the most common operations carried out in all spreadsheet programs. Google Sheets includes a built-in function called SUM.

One nice feature of a spreadsheet is its ability to update if changes are made within the  the range of summed cells. If the data being summed is changed or numbers are added to blank cells, the total will automatically be updated to include the new data.

The function ignores text data – such as headings and labels – in the selected range. Enter the function manually or use the shortcut on the toolbar for even quicker results.

Google Spreadsheets SUM Function Syntax and Arguments

A SUM function's syntax refers to the formatting of the function formula, which includes the function's name, brackets, and arguments.

The syntax for the SUM function is:

=SUM (number_1,number_2,...number_30)

SUM Function Arguments

Arguments are the values that the SUM function will use during its calculations.

  • number_1 – (required) the data to be totaled by the function.
  • number_2,...number_30 – (optional) additional values to be summed up to a maximum of 30 numbers or ranges can be summed by the function.

Each argument can contain:

  • A single number to be summed.
  • A cell reference indicating the location of the data in the worksheet.
  • A range of cell references to the location of the data in the worksheet.

Example: Add a Column of Numbers Using the SUM Function

Google Spreadsheets SUM function
© Ted French

As shown in the image above, this example will enter the cell references to a range of data to be totaled the SUM function. The range selected includes text and blank cells, both of which are ignored by the function.

Next, numbers will be added to those cells that are blank cell or contain text. The total for the range will automatically update to include the new data.

Entering the Tutorial Data

  1. Enter the following data into cells A1 to A6: 114, 165, 178, text.
  2. Leave cell A5 blank.
  3. Enter the following data into cell A6: 165.

Entering the SUM Function

  1. Click on cell A7, the location where the results of the SUM function will be displayed.
  2. Click on Insert > Functions > SUM in the menus to insert the SUM function into cell A7.
  3. Highlight cells A1 and A6 to enter this range of data as the function's argument.
  4. Press the Enter key on the keyboard.
  5. The number 622 should appear in cell A7, which is the total for the numbers entered into cells A1 to A6.

Updating the SUM Function

  1. Type the number 200 into cell A5 and press the Enter key on the keyboard.
  2. The answer 622 in cell A7 should update to 822.
  3. Replace the text data in cell A4 with the number 100 and press the Enter key on the keyboard.
  4. The answer in A7 should update to 922.
  5. Click on cell A7 and the complete function =SUM (A1 : A6) appears in the formula bar above the worksheet