How to Use IF THEN Statements in Excel Like a Spreadsheet Ninja

As an Excel power user, mastering the use of IF THEN statements can help you create dynamic and powerful spreadsheets. With some practice, you’ll be using IF THEN statements like a true spreadsheet ninja!

What are IF THEN Statements?

An IF THEN statement allows you to make logical comparisons between values and execute different actions depending on whether the comparison evaluates to TRUE or FALSE.

The basic syntax is:

=IF(logical_test, value_if_true, value_if_false)
  • logical_test – The condition you want to evaluate. This can use comparison operators like =, <>, >, < etc.
  • value_if_true – What to return if the test evaluates to TRUE.
  • value_if_false (optional) – What to return if the test evaluates to FALSE.

For example:


This checks if the value in cell A1 is greater than 100. If yes, it returns “High”. If not, it returns “Low”.

Common Uses for IF THEN Statements

Here are some common ways that expert Excel users utilize IF THEN statements:

Conditional Formatting

Use IF THEN to highlight cells based on certain criteria:


This would highlight a delivery as “Late” if the text in C1 is “Late”.

Dynamic Calculations

Perform different math based on data:


Calculate a 10% or 5% commission depending on the sales amount.

Error Handling

Show alternate values when errors occur:


Display “No data” if a VLOOKUP returns an error.

Data Validation

Compare inputs to allowed values:

=IF(OR(A1="Yes",A1="No"),"Valid data","Invalid data") 

Validate yes/no inputs.

Nesting IF THEN Statements

You can nest together multiple IF THEN statements to create advanced logical tests.

The syntax is:


For example:


This nests together two IF statements, checking if B2 is above 100 first, then checking if it’s above 50.

You can nest many IF statements in this way to create complex logic.

Tips for Using IF THEN Statements Like an Expert

Follow these tips to master using IF THEN statements in Excel:

1. Use Absolute References

Use absolute cell references like $A$1 when comparing cells in IF statements. This locks the references when copying formulas.

2. Wrap Text Results in Quotes

Wrap text results like “High” in quotation marks so Excel treats them as text strings rather than errors or cell references.

3. Check for Errors First

When referencing other cells, check for errors using ISERROR() before doing comparisons.

4. Indent Nested Statements

Indent nested statements for better readability. Formatting makes auditing complex statements much easier.

5. Add Your Own Custom Error Messages

Don’t just rely on Excel’s #VALUE! and #REF! errors. Create custom messages with IF statements:

=IF(ISERROR(VLOOKUP()),"No lookup value found",VLOOKUP())

6. Use the ELSEIF Function to Simplify

For multiple conditions, use ELSEIF instead of nested IF statements:


This can simplify complex logic.

Common Problems/Errors

Here are some common errors to watch out for:

  • Mismatched parenthesis
  • Missing/extra quotation marks
  • Incorrect cell references
  • Errors in nested statements
  • Incorrect syntax with operators

Always double check the syntax, ensure parenthesis match, look for errors in cell references, and check every level of nested statements.


Learning to effectively use IF THEN statements can help you become an Excel ninja. With the ability to perform logical comparisons and nested statements, the sky’s the limit on what you can accomplish.

Follow the tips outlined here to avoid errors and use IF THEN statements to their full potential. Before long you’ll be wielding them like a spreadsheet samurai!

The key is practice. Try building complex nested statements that incorporate multiple functions. This will sharpen your skills and take your Excel abilities to an expert level.

So unlock the full power of IF THEN statements and let your inner spreadsheet ninja out to play!