Quick, clean, and to the point

How to ask a question about Excel

Every day, thousands of questions about Excel are posted on the internet. Many go unanswered because they are unclear, or too complicated to understand. Below are six tips to write a better question that will attract good answers quickly.

1. Search for existing solutions

Try a search first to see if you can find an existing solution you can use or adapt. You can save a lot of time by finding a path others have already travelled.

2. State your goal clearly and briefly

Be clear about what you want. For example:

  • I need to sum sales by month
  • I need to count orders on Wednesdays or Mondays
  • I need C1 to be blank unless there are numbers in A1 and B1
  • I need a date 10 days in the future excluding weekends

3. Reduce and simply

Less is more. Do not try to explain your requirements at length in text. Distill your problem to its essence. Build a tiny example on one worksheet. Be sure to include (1) sample data and (2) desired result.  For example:

Sample screenshot - how to highlight overdue invoices

5. Show your formula

Include the exact formula you are trying to use. It may not work correctly, but it helps others understand how you are approaching the problem.

Dave Bruns

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