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: Number of Terms in a Formula.

Number of Terms in a Formula

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 28, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Pradeep has a need to figure out the number of terms in any given formula. For instance, in the formula =5+80*3/6 there are four terms. He would like a formula he can use to tell him the number of terms (4) in the formula.

There is no built-in function you can use in Excel to garner this information. Thus, the cleanest approach would be to create your own function, such as the following:

Function TermsInFormula(TheCell As Range)
    Dim sFormula As String
    Dim vOps As Variant
    Dim iCount As Integer
    Dim J As Integer
    Dim AWF As WorksheetFunction

    Application.Volatile
    vOps = Array("+", "-", "*", "/", "^")

    Set AWF = Application.WorksheetFunction
    sFormula = TheCell.Formula
    iCount = 1
    For J = LBound(vOps) To UBound(vOps)
        iCount = iCount + Len(sFormula) _
          - Len(AWF.Substitute(sFormula, vOps(J), ""))
    Next

    TermsInFormula = iCount
    Set AWF = Nothing
End Function

The function checks the formula in the referenced cell to see how many of the five mathematical operators it contains. The number of terms in the formula is always one more than the number of operators, since each term is separated by an operator.

In order to use the function, you would enter the following formula into a cell, assuming that you want to know how many terms are in the formula in cell A1:

=TermsInFormula(A1)

The function will work on formulas, numbers, and text that looks like a formula. It will not, however, consider the "/" in dates as an operator since the display of the date is not part of the Formula property that the function examines. (The display of dates is part of the Text or Value property, not the Formula property.)

Earlier I stated that the number of terms in a formula is generally one more than the number of operators. The operative word here is "generally," as not all formulas are that simple. You'll want to make sure that you visually examine the types of formulas with which you are working and make sure that you are seeing the results you expect.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3265) 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: Number of Terms in a Formula.

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. ...

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