Common Excel errors and how to correct them

Ezone School of Computing

Ms. Excel is a powerful tool for collecting and manipulating data. Released in 1985, Excel has grown into arguably the most popular spreadsheet software on the planet. Whether you are managing a simple sales list, budgeting or grading student performance, Excel has proved itself handy for individuals, small and even large enterprises. A working knowledge of Excel is therefore vital in everyday life whether at home or at work.

However, in the day to day use of Excel a user is likely to come across some errors which form the basis for today’s article.

1. ###### (A string of hash symbols)

This occurs when the column is not wide enough to display all the characters in a cell.Ezone School of Computing

Fix: This will surely be fixed by extending the width of the column.

2. #Name?

This is caused by misspelling the function names. For instance =su(C6:H6) will result in the #Name? error. The mistake here was in writing ‘su’ instead of ‘sum’.
E-zone School of ComputingFix: This will be corrected by entering =sum(C6:H6).

3. #Value!

This error will be displayed if the formula includes cells that contain different data types. In the illustration below, to get the total population of south Sudan, the formula is = B9 + C9. The data in C9 in this case is supposed to be a number but instead the word ‘unknown’ was entered. This will result in the #Value! error message.

Fix: The word ‘unknown’ must be replaced by a numerical figure.

4. #REF! error

The error will be displayed when a cell reference is not valid. Deleting cells that were referred by other formulas will cause this error. In this example, the table is supposed to show sales for October to December (i.e. TOTAL = B4 + C4 + D4) but the column for October was accidentally deleted thereby giving the #REF! error.
E-zone School of ComputingFix: In this case, the column for October which is part of the formula must be put back.

5. # Div/0!

Excel displays this error when a number is divided either by zero (0) or an empty cell. IN this example, the owner wants to know how much each of his branches brings in on average per day. He therefore divides the amount earned by the number of days a particular branch opened for business. However, Cell C6 is empty giving rise to the error in Cell D6.
Fix: Change the divider to a value that is not equal to 0. In this case, the number of days the business was opened has to be fed into Cell C6.


Stephen Dumba
E-zone School of Computing
0752 111 223