How to Subtract Using Microsoft Excel

Written by jason artman
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Microsoft Excel is a powerful math tool for those who know how to use it. While it is capable of performing any basic calculation that you might require of it, the true strength of Excel lies in its ability to build upon previous calculations by updating its results automatically as you change the data in certain cells. Use Excel to perform subtraction or other calculations using existing data or values that you provide.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Click a cell in an Excel spreadsheet and type the equal sign (=). This notifies Excel that you are inputting a math formula.

  2. 2

    Type the value that you will be subtracting from, or click the cell containing the value that you would like to use. Notice that when you click a cell, a dotted line appears around it.

  3. 3

    Type the minus sign (-).

  4. 4

    Type the value that you would like to subtract from the first value, or click another cell. Notice that this cell now has a dotted outline, while the first cell (if applicable) remains highlighted in blue.

  5. 5

    Press "Enter." Excel completes the calculation automatically.

Tips and warnings

  • These general steps can be used to perform any type of basic mathematical operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division) in Excel.
  • If you are creating a formula that you would like to repeat on each line in a column (for example, calculating daily profit by subtracting expenses from gross earnings), click on the cell with your completed formula. Hover the mouse pointer over the lower-right corner of the cell until you see a bold plus sign (+). Click and hold the plus sign, and drag it down until you have highlighted every row that you would like to contain the formula. The formula will automatically be created for each row of the spreadsheet.

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