How To Use The ISBLANK Function In Google Sheets

Reading Time: 4 minutes

What it does – It checks that if a given cell is blank or not and returns a true or false value accordingly

Syntax:
=ISBLANK(Cell_address)

Cell_address – It takes in the reference of the cell for which we have to check if it’s blank or not

Sample usage:
=ISBLANK(A4)

//This will return True if A4 is blank else it will return False

Sample Google Sheets template with formula here.

“Trust only what your eyes can see.” This quote may not be applicable when you are working with Google Sheets. Cells that begin with an apostrophe or contain a pace or have the text camouflaged in the cell might look empty but they aren’t so in reality. In such cases, we can use the ISBLANK function in Google Sheets to confirm the emptiness of the cell.

The use of the ISBLANK function in Google Sheets is most prominent when auditing financial statements. To ensure that the figures add up, accountants may sometimes include fake numbers in their calculations. The auditors can then use the ISBLANK function in Google Sheets to check whether the cells that look empty are actually empty or not and ensure the credibility of those numbers.

How to use the ISBLANK function in Google Sheets
Using the ISBLANK Function in Google Sheets

Case 1: When the colour of the text and cell is the same

Let’s assume you are an auditor and you have the following balance sheet to check and determine its authenticity.

Sample balance sheet
Sample balance sheet

To check for the presence of hidden figures in the statement, the auditor performs the following steps:

Step 1: You click on cell G8 and enter the following function:

=ISBLANK(H8)

The function returns true if the cell corresponding to the amount column on the liability side is empty otherwise returns false. 

Applying the ISBLANK function on one of the  cells that look empty.
Use the ISBLANK function in Google Sheets to look for hidden figures 

The output “TRUE” implies that there are no hidden figures in cell H8.

Step 2: You do the same for all other empty cells either by copying and pasting the formulas in different cells or manually typing them to find the following result:

Applying the function to all the cells that look empty through copy and paste
Checking whether blank cells are empty or not

The cell G8 returns “FALSE”. Thus, indicating that the cell referred to in the function is not blank and contains some value. On changing the fill colour of the cell, we discover the hidden figure as shown below:

Discovering the hidden figure
Uncovering the hidden figure

Thus, it is conventional for an auditor to use the ISBLANK function whenever they get doubt the credibility of the statements.

Case 2: When the cell contains a space 

A space is recognized as an input in Google Sheets. Thus when we use the ISBLANK function in Google Sheets and refer to a cell containing space (“ “) the function returns “FALSE” as shown below:

Output when the cell contains a space
Checking for emptiness when the cell contains a space

Let’s assume you have the following dataset, and the data in the returns column can either contain blank spaces, % return or be empty. Your task is to produce relevant messages as output with regard to the data in the returns column.

Sample database
Sample dataset


Following are the steps you can follow to complete your task:

Step 1: In cell C10, enter the following formula:

=If(Isblank(B10),"The cell is blank",If(B10=" ","The cell contains a space","The cell is not empty"))

The main IF checks whether the cell is blank or not; if the cell is not blank, the second IF checks whether it contains a space or not and produces relevant messages.

Step 2: Drag or copy and paste the formula to the cells below to include the whole data range to produce the following output:

The final result after using the ISBLANK function with the IF function
Final Result

To know more about the use of the IF function click here.

Case 3: When the cell contains a single apostrophe

A single apostrophe is used when you want the data to be treated as a string input in the text even though it begins with an ‘=’ sign or is a number. While the apostrophe itself is not visible, it tells the software that whatever follows the inverted comma must be treated as a text input regardless of anything.

Hence, when the cell contains only the apostrophe sign it seems like an empty cell but returns FALSE when used with the ISBLANK function.

Output when the cell contains a single apostrophe
When the cell contains a single apostrophe

Conclusion

The ISBLANK function conforms with the proverb, “Appearances can be deceptive.” A cell that may look empty might actually contain data in it which may not be visible to the eye without making any changes to the data.

To know about more such clever and important functions, check out our blog.

See Also

Here are a few other articles that you might find relevant to the completion of your task:

Array formula in Google Sheets

How to use the T function in Google Sheets

How to use the Convert function in Google Sheets