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I am just picking up Excel, but have experience with R and Stata. Does Excel have a missing symbol convention? That is, does Excel have something like R's NA or Stata's .?

For example, I evaluate an IF() statement and want to return a value that will be omitted from later calculations I use "NA". Is this the correct approach in Excel? It seems like I am missing a basic concept, but I can't get Google to give me a better answer.

To make this more concrete, I have a conditional like =IF([@[Div Dummy]]=1,"NA",EOMONTH(A8,0)). Is there a way to get a numeric "missing value" placeholder so that I don't get warnings about conflicted data types?

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I think the closest thing is using an empty string... but perhaps someone will surprise me. –  Daniel Cook Oct 19 '12 at 16:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You're almost there. You can use NA() in your formulas to return that "error" value. It's very useful when charting because it's not charted (unlike 0).

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Does it matter that this isn't really an error? I just want to be sure that these don't get incorporated into VLOOKUP()s. –  Richard Herron Oct 19 '12 at 18:37
OK, I see that this there's also an ISNA() counterpart to ISBLANK(). Thanks! –  Richard Herron Oct 19 '12 at 18:42

You can leave cells empty and use (if I remember correctly) =isblank() to do the conditional. And it's worth noting that many numerical functions like =sum() and =product() will ignore empty cells, ala sum(x, na.rm=TRUE) in R.

But no, this is one of dozens of reasons why Excel is not a serious tool for statistical data. (Although it's not terrible for simple simulation and optimization problems.)

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Thanks, Harlan. I knew that SUM() and the gang were smart enough to skip blanks/letters and thanks for the ISBLANK() trick (it looks like there's also ISNA() for David's answer).I am not a huge Excel fan, but I'm teaching business undergrads, and it's pretty important for them -- want to make sure I'm being precise. –  Richard Herron Oct 19 '12 at 18:41

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