Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Understanding Chart Types
Understanding Chart Types
People who create charts usually do so to make a point or to communicate a specifi c
message. Often, the message is explicitly stated in the chart’s title or in a text box within the
chart. The chart itself provides visual support.
Choosing the correct chart type is often a key factor in the effectiveness of the message.
Therefore, it’s often well worth your time to experiment with various chart types to
determine which one conveys your message best.
In almost every case, the underlying message in a chart is some type of comparison.
Examples of some general types of comparisons include:
Comparing an item to other items: A chart may compare sales in each of a
company’s sales regions.
Comparing data over time: A chart may display sales by month and indicate
trends over time.
Making relative comparisons: A common pie chart can depict relative proportions
in terms of pie “slices.”
Comparing data relationships: An XY chart is ideal for this comparison. For
example, you might show the relationship between monthly marketing expenditures
and sales.
Comparing frequency: You can use a common histogram, for example, to display
the number (or percentage) of students who scored within a particular grade range.
Identifying outliers or unusual situations: If you have thousands of data points,
creating a chart may help identify data that isn’t representative.
Choosing a chart type
A common question among Excel users is “How do I know which chart type to use for
my data?” Unfortunately, this question has no cut-and-dried answer. Perhaps the best
answer is a vague one: Use the chart type that gets your message across in the
simplest way. A good starting point is Excel’s recommended charts. Select your data and
choose Insert Charts Recommended Charts to see the chart types that Excel suggests.
Remember that these suggestions are not always the best choices.
In the Ribbon, the Charts group of the Insert tab shows the Recommended Charts button, plus eight other drop-down
buttons. Some of these drop-down buttons display multiple chart types. For example, stock, surface, and radar
charts are all available from a single drop-down button. Similarly, scatter charts and bubble charts share a single
button. Probably the easiest way to choose a particular chart type is to select Insert ➪ Charts ➪ Recommended
Charts, which displays the Insert Chart dialog box. Select the All Charts tab and you’fill have a concise list of all chart
types and subchart types.
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