Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Phantom Counts.

Phantom Counts

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 27, 2014)

There are two closely related worksheet functions in Excel: COUNT and COUNTA. The COUNT function counts all cells that contain numbers, while the COUNTA function counts all cells that are not empty. Thus, if you use COUNTA, you would get "phantom counts" if a cell contained a space; this problem would not occur if you used the COUNT function.

What can cause "phantom counts" when using COUNT is if some cells contain the value zero. This is considered a number by Excel, so it includes that cell in the count. The confusion often pops up if you have the worksheet configured to not display zero values. Thus, the cell could appear to be empty, but really contain a zero which affects COUNT.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2574) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Phantom Counts.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

AutoFilling from a Custom List

AutoFill can be a real timesaver if you often work with set lists of data. You can define your own custom lists and then ...

Discover More

Can't Save Edited Document

Each day of using Word is filled with opening documents, editing them, and then saving those changes to disk. So it can ...

Discover More

No Ribbon on New Documents

The way that you work with commands in Word is primarily through the ribbon. What do you do if the ribbon disappears when ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Counting within Criteria

You can use the COUNTIF function to determine how many cells in a range fit your criteria. One criterion is easy; using ...

Discover More

Using the FORECAST Function

Excel provides a handy worksheet function that allows you to forecast values based upon a set of known values. This ...

Discover More

Counting the Number of Blank Cells

If you need to count the number of blank cells in a range, the function to use is COUNTBLANK. This tip discusses the ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six more than 8?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.