Simple Calculation

Copper Contributor

I am simply trying to subtract one cell from another.  Doing it manually.  Click the + and it highlights 2 cells including the one I am trying to select.  I have cleared Content, reformatted alignment - the tricks that usually work.  Does anyone have the secret solution?

1 Reply


It sounds like you're experiencing an issue where Excel is not correctly selecting a single cell for your subtraction formula. Here are some troubleshooting steps to resolve this:

Steps to Create a Simple Subtraction Formula

  1. Open Excel and navigate to the worksheet where you want to perform the subtraction.
  2. Click on the cell where you want the result of the subtraction to appear.
  3. Enter the formula manually:
  • Type =
  • Click on the cell that contains the minuend (the number you want to subtract from).
  • Type -
  • Click on the cell that contains the subtrahend (the number you want to subtract).
  • Press Enter.


  • If you want to subtract the value in cell B1 from the value in cell A1 and show the result in cell C1:
  • Click on cell C1.
  • Type =A1-B1.
  • Press Enter.

Troubleshooting Steps

If the issue persists where Excel highlights two cells instead of one, try the following solutions: 1. Check for Sticky Keys:

  • Sometimes, the Shift key might be stuck. Press the Shift key a few times to release it.
  • Alternatively, restart your computer to reset the keyboard state.

2. Clear Formatting:

  • Select the problematic cells.
  • Go to the Home tab.
  • Click on Clear in the Editing group.
  • Choose Clear Formats.

3. Check for Merged Cells:

  • Ensure that none of the cells involved in the calculation are merged. Merged cells can cause selection issues.
  • To unmerge, select the merged cell, go to the Home tab, and click Merge & Center to unmerge the cells.

4. Check for Conditional Formatting:

  • Conditional formatting might be interfering with the selection.
  • Go to the Home tab, click on Conditional Formatting, and choose Clear Rules to remove any conditional formatting.

5. Restart Excel:

  • Close Excel and reopen it to reset the application state.
  • If the issue persists, try restarting your computer.

6. Recreate the Formula in a New Workbook:

  • Sometimes, the issue might be specific to the current workbook.
  • Create a new workbook and try the subtraction formula there to see if it works correctly.

Using the Formula Bar

  • If direct cell selection is problematic, use the formula bar:
  • Click on the cell where you want the result.
  • In the formula bar, type = followed by the cell references (e.g., =A1-B1).
  • Press Enter.

Example Formula


By following these steps, you should be able to perform simple subtraction in Excel without the issue of incorrect cell highlighting. Excel video training