I got a column with several rows containing m or w.

So I just want to count how many of that rows contain the letter w. This looks like a rather simple task but excel is throwing an error on me when I use the function like this:

=COUNTIF(C2:C123, "w")

There`s a problem with this forlmula When the first character is an equal (=) or minus (-) sign, Excel thinks it's a formula

I looked at the documentation of the formula:


It seems that I'm doing nothing wrong here. What is causing this type of error?

2 Answers 2


It appears microsoft decided that parameters are not longer seperated by using , instead I have to use ;.

I haven't noticed that because I'm not using excel very often, but it seemed to be faster than writing a script for that task.

  • 4
    While your issue is resolved, it appears that the 'List Separator' character in your Windows-->Control Panel-->Region and Language-->Additional Settings-->Number-->List Separator is a semicolon instead of comma. Try changing it back to comma and your formula in Excel should work fine with with comma as a separator. You may need to restart Excel after this change is done in Control Panel.
    – patkim
    Mar 13, 2017 at 8:10

Not posting as a solution necessarily, but posting a noteworthy observation:

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The formula does in fact use a comma and not a semicolon. Semicolons I generally see in programming languages to indicate an "end of line" or "end of sentence".

  • 3
    different regional settings can determine whether you use a comma, or semi colon, so the formula can technically use either. google.com/…
    – PeterH
    Sep 24, 2018 at 12:06

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