Adding up numbers in Microsoft Word

If you're using Word to present a table of data that includes numbers, you can use Word's built in formulas to add up those numbers rather than manually calculate them each time they change. This can also eliminate the possibility of error - particularly important if you're producing a sales proposal or an important report.

Note that you can't just add up numbers on different lines - you can only add up numbers that are presented in either a column or a row inside a table.

First, create your table and decide which column or row will hold the numbers you wish to add up. Enter the numbers, making sure that there is a number in each cell in the column.

Then, in the last row in the table, click in the cell in the number column and choose Insert > Quick Parts > Field, then click Formula

A new dialog box should appear containing a Formula field with one of the following formulas:

=SUM(ABOVE)

=SUM(LEFT)

Note - if you get an error rather than one of these formula, it most likely means that Word couldn't find any numbers in the cells above or to the left of the current cell.

You can now choose a format for the number. The list of available number format is somewhat limited, but you can manually enter any format that is supported by Excel. For example, the following format is not listed but will work to format the number with a $ sign, thousand separators and two decimal places:

$#,###.##

Once you've chosen a format, you can click OK.

This will insert the SUM formula into the cell. Word will then calculate the sum of all the cells above the cell where the formula is located provided they all contain numbers.

If you find that Word does not calculate the sum of all the numbers in the column, it is possible that one of the cells does not contain a valid number. This gives rise to two possibilities:

  1. Word will ignore any cells containing non-numbers (i.e. text) in the column above and add up the rest of the cells. In some cases, you may have typed a number which Word sees as text instead. Try retyping these numbers to see if that fixes the problem.
  2. Word encounters an empty cell. Once it hits an empty cell, Word stops calculating. Any cells above the empty cell will be ignored. If this happens, you may need to rearrange the order of the rows in the table, or consider putting a text value into the empty cells.

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Comments on this lesson

Recalculating totals when the numbers change

Thanks for pointing this out. You're right that the numbers won't update automatically. You can update a total by right-clicking the total and choosing the Update Field option. If you have multiple total fields (or other types of Word fields, such as a table of contents or cross references to other parts of your document) you can trick Word into recalculating all of them by pressing CTRL+P (or simply choosing the Print option). You don't actually have to print the document, but this will force Word to recalculate the fields in your document.

Adding up formatted numbers in a Word table

Hmmm. In my experience, adding up numbers with formatting such as you've shown is no problem at all. Perhaps there is something else happening in your table? Happy to take a look at an example document if you would like to get in touch directly via the Contact page.