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Microsoft Excel 2003/2004

About Charting

Charts are objects on your worksheet that can be moved, resized, and deleted without affecting your worksheet. If the chart is placed on top of information, the information will not be modified or lost.

return to topCharting Rules

Excel follows seven basic rules for creating charts with the Chart Wizard. Understanding these rules can help avoid frustration and reduce the steps necessary for creating charts. Once the chart is created, you can modify it to meet your needs.

Rule Description
Rule 1 Excel does not automatically add a chart title to your chart based on the first row of selected information. A chart title can be added during the creation process or later
Rule 2 Excel does not automatically add a chart subtitle to your chart based on the second row of selected information. A subtitle can be added after the chart is created
Rule 3 Blank rows and columns in your information are not ignored. Excel will leave a blank bar or pie slice for every blank row or column in your information
Rule 4 If the data contains more rows than columns, Excel will plot the data by column. The first column becomes the X-axis labels; the balance of the columns are the data series. The first row becomes the legend's labels
Rule 5 If the data contains more columns than rows, Excel will plot the data by row. The first row becomes the X-axis labels; the balance of the rows are the data series. The first column becomes the legend's labels
Rule 6 If the data contains an equal number of rows and columns, Excel defaults to plot the data by rows but gives you the option to plot by columns
Rule 7 If only numeric data is selected, Excel follows rules 4 and 5

Bad Data Sample

In the following example, notice how the blank cells in the data series create blanks spaces in the chart. The lack of row labels makes it difficult for the reader to understand the chart, because no legend exists to guide them.

Sample chart data

Bad graph resulting from bad data sample

Good Data Sample

In the following example, notice that no blank spaces exist in the data series, so no empty spaces exist in the chart. The row labels allow a legend that makes the chart much easier to understand.

Good Data example

Good Chart example

return to topAbout Charting Elements

A chart contains several elements, which are illustrated in this graphic.

Graphic of Chart Elements

The following table describes the various elements.

Element Purpose
Title (Subtitle) Identifies the chart and frequently includes a date or time period
Category (X) Axis Identifies the data being charted on the horizontal x-axis. Examples of Category (X) Axis types include dates, projects, and salespersons
Category Axis Title Identifies the title of the Category (X) Axis
Value (Y) Axis Identifies the data being charted on the vertical y-axis. Examples of Value (Y) Axis types include numbers and years
Value Axis Title Identifies the title of the Value (Y) Axis
Legend Identifies the information charted. This is especially important when you have more than one type of information charted. For example, if you have a chart for enrollment by class (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior), a legend will be important for identifying which information relates to what class
Ticks Ticks, indicating measurement increments, appear on both the y-axis and x-axis and can help improve the readability of a chart. Both y-axis and x-axis ticks are optional
Origin The origin is the point where the x-axis and y-axis meet. The origin is generally at zero (0) but can be modified
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