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Multilevel inverters introduce harmonics to the network besides their remarkable advantages. Total harmonic distortion (THD) is one of the most important indexes to evaluate the harmonic contents of waveforms. The conventional method of line-voltage THD calculation gives approximate answers, because high-order harmonics are ignored. In this paper, an analytical algebraic method based on formulating the line-voltage THD of multilevel inverters with unequal dc sources is presented. This method, which is general and applicable to each number of switching angles, is implemented to a five-level inverter with staircase waveform as a case study. The implementing process of this method can be easily repeated for each number of levels. The accuracy of the proposed method is illustrated in comparison with the approximate method. Some advantages of the extracted formulas of line-voltage THD are simplicity and rapidity in calculations, considering all harmonics and the possibility of finding optimal switching angles analytically. Experimental results are presented to validate the theory.