Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
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Problems with Chart Type Selection
Problems with Chart Type Selection
As you know, Excel offers a wide variety of chart types. Selecting the most
appropriate chart type for a particular set of data is sometimes difficult. This section presents
examples of potential problems that stem from using an incorrect chart type.
Category versus value axis
A common problem with charts stems from confusion between a category axis and
a value axis. This topic is covered in Chapter 4, but it’s worth revisiting.
Common chart types such as a column chart, line chart, area chart, and bar chart
all use a standard category axis. A category axis does not convey any numerical
information. An XY chart, on the other hand, uses two value axes, both of which
convey numerical information.
Figure 11-5 shows a worksheet with a company’s net income data for six periods
of time, along with a line chart that plots the numbers. Note that the increments are
not equal (the last two periods are one-year intervals). The chart is misleading
because the last two data points use a different time scale, and the chart suggests
that net income growth has slowed considerably. The use of a line chart usually
implies a continuous stream of data — which is not the case with this chart.
Figure 11-5: Using a line chart for this data presents
an incorrect picture of the growth.
Figure 11-6 presents a more accurate picture of the growth. The chart in this
figure is an XY chart that treats the horizontal scale as numeric. Yet another solution
is to eliminate any source of confusion: remove the last two data points from the
series, and use a column chart (see Figure 11-7).
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