How to solve formula parse errors in Google Sheets

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If you use spreadsheet formulas frequently, you are no stranger to formula parse errors. These errors occur when a formula is not written correctly. This is a very common problem that affects both beginners and seasoned users.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into formula parse errors, listing the most common errors and finding ways to fix them.

What are formula parse errors in Google Sheets?

Whenever you encounter a formula error, Google Sheets will display a message. These errors arise when Google Sheets can’t understand your formula. Some of these errors occur when there are syntax mistakes, invalid references or missing arguments.

In order to solve these issues, you need to review and rewrite the formula using the correct syntax and making sure all the references are valid. By understanding common formula errors, you’ll be able to find ways to fix them and ensure data accuracy.

How to fix formula parse errors

Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to fix these errors, there are some best practices that can help you solve these problems or even prevent them from happening.

Double-check the formula syntax: double-check the formula for any spelling errors, especially in long formulas.

Check all cell references: when you write formulas, you usually reference other cells, ranges and even other worksheets. Make sure all the references are valid and accurate.

Be careful with punctuation marks: when writing a formula, you’ll often need to include parentheses, brackets, commas and quotation marks. It goes without saying that it’s easy to overlook some of these punctuation marks, which can lead to formula parse errors.

Enable formula corrections: Google Sheets has a useful feature for users who need to create formulas frequently. By activating the autocomplete feature, you can enable formula suggestions and corrections. When you activate these features, Google Sheets will automatically autocomplete some formulas, give suggestions or make corrections. Activating these functions is simple. Click Tools, select Autocomplete, and enable these features. 

Common formula parse errors

Let’s outline some of the most common formula parse errors now.

#N/A Error

When Google Sheets returns this error, it means that a value is not available. This is a common error message that occurs when Google Sheets can’t return a value that you were looking for.

For instance, when you use functions such as VLOOKUP, QUERY, or MATCH, you will see this message if the value you’re looking for is not available in the specified range.

Below, Google Sheets returned the “#N/A Error” because the value I was trying to find wasn’t available within the specified range of cells.

You can fix this by replacing the value that is not available or checking if you haven’t misspelled the value.

#REF! Error

This error occurs when you reference an invalid cell. For this reason, this issue frequently arises when you delete cells or ranges that you are referencing in your formula.

It’s a common error when there is a missing reference or the value you’re looking for is outside the ranges you’ve specified.

In this example, my VLOOKUP formula is referencing a cell that is outside the specified range.

In order to fix this error, I need to replace all invalid references with valid ones.

#VALUE Error

This error occurs when your formula has the wrong type of value. In this example, Google Sheets returned an error message because the formula expected number values instead of letters. 

When Google Sheets returns this formula parse error, read the message and replace the wrong values.

#NAME? Error

This error indicates that you have referenced an invalid name somewhere in your formula. Whenever Google Sheets doesn’t recognize the name of a built-in function or a named range, it will return this error. 

In this example, I’ve misspelled the name of the function. As a result, Google Sheets returned a “#NAME? Error” message.

Whenever you see this error message, check your formula carefully and correct any misspelled words.

#NUM Error

This error indicates that your formula contains an invalid number. In general, it occurs when the number is too large for Google Sheets or when it is invalid. In this example, Google Sheets displayed this error message because negative numbers don’t have square roots. 

In order to fix this formula parse error, check all the numeric values in your value to make sure they’re valid.


Google Sheets will return this error whenever it can’t read your formula at all. When this error occurs, you will only get a “Formula parse error” message.

This error sometimes occurs when you mistype symbols and punctuation marks. Make sure you double-check your formula.

Use formula suggestions and corrections

Don’t forget to use the formula suggestions in Google Sheets whenever you’re not sure about the correct formula syntax. As you can see, you will have access to more detailed instructions and suggestions when you click on the desired function. Google Sheets will even include examples that can help you figure out the correct formula.

Ask our community for help

If you still can’t figure out how to fix your formula parse errors, don’t worry. You can always ask for help. Our community has dozens of spreadsheet experts that can help you identify formula parse errors and troubleshoot them.

Whenever you encounter a formula parse error you can’t fix, head over to our community and ask for help.

How to solve formula parse errors in Google Sheets

That’s how you can fix formula parse errors in Google Sheets. If you want to learn more about other formulas and functions in Google Sheets, we have a wide range of articles to help you. You can start by learning how to use IMPORTRANGE to transfer data from one spreadsheet to another in Google Sheets.

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