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Microsoft Excel 2007/2008

About Charting

Charts are graphical depictions of data in your worksheet. Excel can build a chart automatically based on existing data, after which the chart can be moved, resized, and deleted without affecting your worksheet data. Charts do not appear within a specific cell, but rather appear over other cells. When creating a chart, there are some basic rules to keep in mind to make the process easier. This document gives an overview of the necessary elements of a chart.

return to topCharting Rules

Excel follows seven basic rules for creating charts. 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.
NOTE: 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. Also, the lack of row labels makes it difficult for readers to understand the chart, because no specific labels appear on the legend to guide them.

Bad Data Sample

Bad Chart example

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. Also, the added row labels have made the legend 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 list describes various elements that can be found in a chart.

Title
Identifies the chart, and frequently includes a date or time period.
EXAMPLE: Average Monthly Temperatures

Category (X) Axis
Identifies the data being charted on the horizontal x-axis; values in this section will be used as labels along the x-axis.
EXAMPLE: Cities (Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Tampa)

Category Axis Title
Identifies the title of the category (x) axis.
NOTE: The chart above does not contain a Category Axis Title.
An appropriate Category Axis Title for this chart would be Cities.

Value (Y) Axis
Identifies the data being charted on the vertical y-axis; values in this section will determine where points fall in relation to the y-axis.
NOTE: The x-axis can also be used as a value axis.
EXAMPLE: Average temperatures (0–90)

Value Axis Title
Identifies the title of the value (y) axis.
NOTE: The chart above does not contain a Value Axis Title.
An appropriate Value Axis Title for this chart would be Degrees Fahrenheit.

Legend
Identifies the information being charted. This is especially important when you have more than one type of information charted. Using the example of the above chart, the legend identifies which information relates to each month.

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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