The AVERAGE function is a computer program that you run from a worksheet cell formula. It takes the average (arithmetic mean) of the values you give it. You run the AVERAGE function by typing its name in a formula then followed by the information it is suppose to average. The AVERAGE worksheet function is capable of looking at thousands of cell values at once. It replaces the cumbersome worksheet formula =(A1+A2+A3...)/n. The AVERAGE function is most commonly used to look across a row of numbers or down a column of numbers on the worksheet.

Whenever you type a formula in a worksheet cell, this is called syntax or grammar. The general AVERAGE function syntax has a format like this when you type it in a worksheet cell:

=AVERAGE(number1,[number2], ...)

Where number1, [number2] ..... are called the function argument list. Remember, you are running a computer program at this point so the program needs information to operate and that is why there is an argument list. When you see an argument list and you see square brackets [ ] around the argument name, this means the argument is optional and you do not have to include it when typing unless you need it. So for the syntax above, you need to include one argument for the AVERAGE function when typing it in a worksheet cell formula in order for it to calculate correctly. How many arguments can be placed in the list is dependent upon the Excel version you are using. What argument values can be used are discussed below. Remember functions expect certain things in their argument lists, if you do not put the correct information in the list they will generate an error when run.

Since the AVERAGE function is a computer program, it runs when you press Enter to enter the formula that contains it. If any of the arguments are wrong, the function will return an error.

When typing the AVERAGE function in a worksheet cell formula, you need to replace the number1... argument list with arguments separating each one with a comma (,). Since the AVERAGE function averages numbers it expects numbers. Some typical arguments you can use are:

Argument Type | Cell Formula | Example Explanation |

Cell Reference | = AVERAGE( A1, B1 ) | Finds the average of the cell values from A1 and B1 |

Range Reference | = AVERAGE( A1:A10 ) | Finds the average of the cell values between cells A1 and A10 |

Column Reference | = AVERAGE( C:C ) | Finds the average of the cell values from Column C |

Row Reference | = AVERAGE( 1:1 ) | Finds the average of the cell values from Row 1 |

Numbers | = AVERAGE( 100, 200, A1 ) | Finds the average between 100, 200 and cell A1's value |

Multiple Columns/Rows | = AVERAGE( A1:A10, C1:C10 ) | Finds the average of the cell values from A1 to A10 and from C1 to C10 |

Cell and Range Names | = AVERAGE( Sales_2012 ) | Finds the average of the cell values from the range named Sales_2012 * |

* It is possible to name a cell or group of cells on a worksheet and use that name in place of a range reference or cell reference. Consult Excel help on how to name a cell.

The worksheet seen below contains some typical worksheet formulas that run the AVERAGE worksheet function. Pay close attention to the argument list and the syntax used to write the formula.

A | B | C | |

1 | Quantity | = AVERAGE( A1:A4 ) | Returns the average value from the range A1 to A4 |

2 | 100 | ||

3 | 200 | ||

4 | 300 |

- Arguments can either be numbers or names, arrays, or references that contain numbers.
- Logical values and text representations of numbers that you type directly into the list of arguments are counted.
- Arguments that are error values or text that cannot be translated into numbers are ignored.
- If an argument is an array or range reference, only numbers in that array or reference are counted. Empty cells, logical values, text, or error values in the array or reference are ignored. Cells with the value 0 are included.
- If you want to include logical values and text representations of numbers in a reference as part of the calculation, use the AVERAGEA function.

Note The AVERAGE function measures central tendency, which is the location of the center of a group of numbers in a statistical distribution. The three most common measures of central tendency are:

- Average which is the arithmetic mean, and is calculated by adding a group of numbers and then dividing by the count of those numbers. For example, the average of 2, 3, 3, 5, 7, and 10 is 30 divided by 6, which is 5.
- Median which is the middle number of a group of numbers; that is, half the numbers have values that are greater than the median, and half the numbers have values that are less than the median. For example, the median of 2, 3, 3, 5, 7, and 10 is 4.
- Mode which is the most frequently occurring number in a group of numbers. For example, the mode of 2, 3, 3, 5, 7, and 10 is 3.

For a symmetrical distribution of a group of numbers, these three measures of central tendency are all the same. For a skewed distribution of a group of numbers, they can be different.

Tip When averaging cells, keep in mind the difference between empty cells and those containing the value zero, especially if you have cleared the Zero values check box on the View tab (Options command, Tools menu). Empty cells are not counted, but zero values are.

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