Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Understanding Precedence.

Understanding Precedence

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 15, 2021)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Macros often contain mathematical formulas. Those formulas can sometimes become quite complex. Any time a formula contains more than one operator (such as + or -), VBA needs to figure out in which order to perform the operations. This is where the concept of precedence comes into play. Precedence is the built-in macro logic that determines the order in which the operations occur. This is the normal order:

Operator Meaning
^ Exponentiation
- Negation
* and / Multiplication and division
\ Integer division
Mod Modulus
+ and - Addition and subtraction

Notice that there are two entries in the precedence list in which there are two operators. Multiplication and division are at the same precedence level, as are addition and subtraction. If a formula involves two or more operators at the same precedence level, then the operators are evaluated from left to right within the formula.

If you want to change the order in which a formula is evaluated, you need to use parentheses. Operations within parentheses are evaluated before those outside of them. Thus, a formula such as 3 * (4 + 2) would produce a result of 18 because the addition within the parentheses takes precedence over the multiplication outside the parentheses. If the parentheses had been omitted, then 3 * 4 + 2 would have resulted in 14.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1452) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Understanding Precedence.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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