How to Use the ISBLANK function in Excel: Step-by-Step

What is ISBLANK?

Read it this way “Is it blank?”. More particularly, “Is this cell blank?”. The ISBLANK function is designed to answer the same question😊

You’d often see cells in Excel that’d appear blank but in essence, would not be blank.

The ISBLANK function can identify blank and non-blank cells in less than a second.

Join us through the article below to learn all about the ISBLANK function. Download our free sample workbook on your way down the article.

How to check if a cell is blank with ISBLANK

Like all the “IS___” functions, the ISBLANK function also returns a Boolean Value. The answer to the ISBLANK function returns TRUE if a cell is empty and FALSE if not.

How to apply the ISBLANK function in Excel? See below.

1. Here’s a list in Excel that has data on some cells. Whereas, the other cells appear blank.

Data in Excel

2. To see, how many of these cells are truly empty cells, write the ISBLANK function below.


Writing the ISBLANK function

We know this sounds super lame 😁 three cells are blank, and the rest are non-blank, anyone could see that.

3. But hit Enter and drag and drop the same formula to the whole list.

4. And the suspense comes to an end.

ISBLANK function find blank cells

5. The ISBLANK check is only true for one cell. Why not Cell A3 and A5?

Cell A3 has a space character.

A space character

And Cell A5 has an apostrophe.

An apostrophe

Both these characters are not visible in the cells but do have a sitting. So, the ISBLANK function identifies the cells containing any visible or invisible content.

ISBLANK formula example # 1: NOT and ISBLANK Function

Normally, the ISBLANK function would return TRUE if the cell is blank.

And return FALSE if the cell is not blank. 😉

What if you want the results to be the opposite? This means that you want to see if the cell is not blank.

1. Continuing with the same data list as above.

2. Write the ISBLANK function as below.


3. However, to swap the results, nest it into the NOT function as below.


Nesting the ISBLANK function into NOT

The NOT function applies a logical test to see if the cells are not blank. So, if the cells are not blank, it returns TRUE and vice versa.

The results are opposite to those above.

ISBLANK and Not Function

ISBLANK formula example # 2: IF and ISBLANK

The IF and ISBLANK function go very well together.

The IF function takes ISBLANK a step ahead and tells what to do next after you know if a cell is blank or not.

1. The list below shows the name of students with their roll numbers.

Students and their roll Numbers

Those who do not have a roll number allotted to their name, have been rejected.

Can we auto-fill this list with their admitted/rejected status?🤔

2. Write the ISBLANK function as below.


The above formula will give results as ‘True’ or ‘False’.

3. Nest it into the IF function as follows:

=IF ((ISBLANK (B2)), “Rejected”, “Admitted”) 

Writing the IF function

The first argument of the IF function is a logical test.

The second argument specifies that value to be returned if the test results are true. The third argument specifies the value to be returned if the test results are false.

The IF function returns the status

4. Cell B2 has a roll number. The ISBLANK test is false, and the IF function returns ‘Admitted’.

5. Drag and Drop the same to the whole list.

The IF function returns results for the whole list

Pro Tip!

There’s an abbreviated syntax to check if a cell is blank.

“<>” is also known as the empty string syntax. It includes double quotation marks with Excel operators.

To see if cell B1 is blank, write the formula = B1 = “”. If the answer is true, this means cell B1 is blank.

To see if cell B1 is not blank, write the formula = B1 “<>”. If the answer to this syntax is true, this means Cell B1 is not blank.

It is used in place of the ISBLANK function.

ISBLANK formula example # 3: SUMIF Function

The image below shows a list of grocery items.

Grocery List

For some grocery items, we have the batch number next to them. Whereas, the others don’t have any.

Can we sum only those items whose batch numbers are mentioned?

1. Write the SUMIF function as follows.

=SUMIF (B2:B6,

Cell reference B2:B6

The first argument defines the range for the criteria to be checked. We want the batch numbers, so the list of batch numbers (B2:B6) is referred to here.

2. Write the next argument as below.

=SUMIF (B2:B6, “<>”

Second argument of the worksheet function SUMIF

The sign “<>” defines non-blank cells. This means the range B2:B6 must be checked for non-blank cells. And only non-blank cells should be summed.

3. Define the range to be summed.

=SUMIF (B2:B6, “<>”, C2:C6)

Third argument of the SUM function

We have created a reference to cell C2:C6 as these cells contain the prices. And we want the prices to be summed.

4. Hit ‘Enter’ to see the formula applied.

Excel sums the prices of specified cell

Excel has summed the prices of some grocery items only.

It has only summed the prices of the grocery items for which a batch number is present. These include Cell C2, C3, and C6.

Double-check: Apply the SUM function to add these cells up or do some quick math.

20 + 15 + 50 = 85

That’s it – Now what?

When used in the right place, even a very simple function could turn out incredibly useful.

The ISBLANK function is one of those underrated functions of Excel that might seem useless alone. But when paired with other formulas, they will cut down your working time greatly.

This guide explains how to use the ISBLANK function and how to use it together with other excel functions. You might also use conditional formatting to highlight blank cells in Excel.

The ISBLANK and many more simple functions of Excel will be of use to you only if you master other major functions of Excel. Like the VLOOKUP, SUMIF, and IF functions.

My 30-minute free email course will help you master these and many other useful functions of Excel. Sign up now!

Other resources

The Microsoft Excel ISBLANK function would barely be of use individually. Most of the time you’d use it before applying another function in Excel.

Try reading our article on another similar topic like deleting blank rows in Excel.