Basic to bomb column charts.

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The basic Excel column chart.

Let’s take a quick look at how a basic column chart in Excel can be turned into something you might want to look at.

  1. Enter your data into Excel
  2. Insert a column chart (if you’re basic, save and close here…)

Oh, good! You’re ready for more. Okay, here it goes:

  1. Get rid of that white space by decreasing the gap width.
  2. Remove the gridlines. They add unnecessary clutter for readers
  3. Trash the x-axis.
  4. …the y-axis, too!
  5. Add data labels (and for the love of all things, don’t leave them hanging in space – move them onto their respective bar).
  6. The title. I’m a fan of Stephanie Evergreen’s piece on this. Instead of a simple word or two, write a sentence that describes the dataset and LEFT justify it.
  7. Format! 10pt labels, 12pt title, non-default font and colors.

Bonus: Make everything a table. Sort them — highest to lowest (i.e. descending first), so readers don’t have to do the ordering themselves. 

Questions? Shoot me a message or tweet. 

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Our column chart gone bomb!


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