- What is a Formula Parse Error in Google Sheets?
- Examples of How to Fix or Prevent a Formula Parse Error in Google Sheets
- How to Use IFERROR Function?
No matter how long you’ve been working with formulas in Google Sheets, you’ve probably come across one or more formula parse error messages at some point. The message contains information regarding the type of error it has encountered. For some of these errors, Google Sheets may even suggest a fix.
In this guide, you will learn what a formula parse error means. You will learn about seven of the most common formula parse errors and how to fix them. Additionally, you have step-by-step instructions on how to fix some of these errors and how to avoid the more predictable ones.
What is a Formula Parse Error in Google Sheets?
A formula parse error means that Google Sheets cannot read or carry out the instructions in your formula. The errors themselves can be very different, ranging from simple typos - like a missing comma - to mathematical impossibilities, such as trying to divide by zero.
Common Formula Parse Errors in Google Sheets and How to Fix Them
Below, you have explanations regarding seven of the most frequently encountered errors in Google Sheets. You have examples of each type of error and suggestions for fixing them. As you will see in detail in the next section, many of these mistakes can be fixed or prevented by careful proofreading, as well as by using IFERROR and Google Sheets’ formula help and suggestions.
If you see this error message, it means that somewhere in your formula, you’re asking Google Sheets to divide a value by zero. Since that isn’t possible, the result of your formula cannot be calculated.
To fix this problem, wrap your formula in the IFERROR function to return a specific value or message when this occurs.
This error message indicates that Google Sheets is unable to calculate or display the value you requested. For example, if the result of your calculation is larger than 1.79769E+308 or the calculation requires complex numbers, you will get the #NUM! error message.
This error also happens when you use LARGE or SMALL and request a number of results larger than the number of existing items. To fix this error, check your formula carefully to find the value or calculation causing it.
This error message tells you that the value you want is unavailable. This is a common error when using lookup functions, such as VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, QUERY, or INDEX and MATCH. Seeing this message doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’ve made a mistake: the value just isn’t there to be retrieved.
However, you can wrap the formula in the IFERROR function to return a more informative message if the value you want isn’t available.
The #NAME? error indicates that you have referenced a named entity that Google Sheets doesn’t recognize. This is usually the result of misspelling the name of a built-in function or named range or attempting to use a named range that doesn’t exist.
To fix this error, check your formula carefully for misspelled named objects, like built-in functions and named ranges.
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If you see this error message, it means you have an invalid reference. This is frequently the result of deleting cells or named ranges that were being used in your formula. You will also see this error message if your formula contains a circular reference. Sometimes, it can happen when you copy and paste a formula with relative references.
To fix this error, you can edit the formula to replace the invalid references with valid ones.
This error usually indicates that you have provided a data type different than that required by your formula. To fix this type of error, click on the cell with the error to see the whole message. The error message usually contains more information, like which parameter is causing the error and what data type it should be.
This error message indicates that Google Sheets cannot read your formula or even guess what you’re trying to do. This usually indicates the presence of an unexpected typo; for example, a missing or extra character or operator.
You’ll have to check your formula carefully for extra or missing characters to fix this error. These could be spaces, punctuation, operators, or alphanumeric characters. For example, missing or extra quotation marks around text values will cause this error message to appear.
Examples of How to Fix or Prevent a Formula Parse Error in Google Sheets
Now that you know what causes some of the most common formula parse errors and how to fix them, let’s take a look at the resources you can use to prevent these mistakes. While careful proofreading can prevent many of these errors, it’s easier to accomplish if you use the built-in formula suggestions and help in Google Sheets.
However, errors like #N/A or #DIV/0! cannot always be avoided, as there are specific cases in which the formula will result in an error. By using the IFERROR function, you can customize the message displayed when this happens.
Use Formula Suggestions & Help
When using built-in functions in Google Sheets, take advantage of the built-in help. You have access to instructions and suggestions regarding the function’s syntax and the types of values it requires. This also includes examples of use cases for the function, as well as a link to access additional help with the function.
In the previous section, you saw an example of a function that could lead to #NUM! errors: LARGE.
- 1. Double-click to edit your formula and click inside the named function to see suggestions on syntax.
- 2. Click on the vertical ellipsis in the bottom-right corner to check that suggestions are enabled.
- 3. Click on ‘Learn more’ for additional help, including examples of general usage.
How to Use IFERROR Function?
The IFERROR function returns the expected result if no error is encountered. However, the second argument is returned if an error is encountered, and it can be any value, message, or calculation that you specify. The function will return a blank if the second argument isn’t present. This function is especially useful in cases where errors are predictable, such as using lookup functions or dividing by different values, some of which could be zero.
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IFERROR & Lookup Functions
Follow the steps below to avoid #N/A errors when performing lookups and customize the message that is displayed.
- 1. In the cell where you want the result of the lookup function, type the IFERROR function.
- 2. For the first parameter, add your lookup function with the parameters you want to use. After the closing parenthesis, add a comma.
- 3. For the second IFERROR parameter, type in the message - enclosed in quotation marks - that you want to display when the value isn’t found. Alternatively, you can specify a value or a different calculation.
- 4. Close the parenthesis and press ‘Enter’ to see the result.
You now know what a formula parse error means, as well as the seven types you are likely to encounter using Google Sheets. You have explanations, common causes, and suggestions on how to fix each of these seven errors: #DIV/0!, #NUM!, #N/A, #NAME?, #REF!, #VALUE!, and #ERROR!.
You also know how to prevent these errors by using the built-in function help and suggestions, as well as by wrapping your functions within IFERROR. Additionally, you have step-by-step instructions on how to use IFERROR with lookup functions to avoid the #N/A error message.