Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Two-Level Axis Labels.

Two-Level Axis Labels

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 26, 2022)

Excel is great at creating charts. With some types of data, you may have a need for two-level axis labels for your chart. For instance, you may want something similar to the following along the X-axis for your chart:

  Pro | Team | Reg | Pro | Team | Reg ...
    Eastern US     |   Western US ...

Setting up such an arrangement in an Excel worksheet is easy, but getting the same result in a chart may not be as obvious.

Go ahead and set up your worksheet to reflect the column titles the way you want them. These column titles will end up as your X-axis labels. You could set them up as follows:

  |   A   |   B   |   C   |   D   |   E   |   F   |   G   |
1 |       |       Eastern US      |       Western US      |
2 |       |  Pro  |  Team |  Reg  |  Pro  |  Team |  Reg  |
  1. In the first row, put your first major group title into cell B1.
  2. Put your second major group title into cell E1.
  3. In cells B2:G2 place your column labels.
  4. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  5. Select cells B1:D1 and, in the Alignment group, click the Merge and Center tool. The first major group title should now be centered over the first group of column labels.
  6. Select cells E1:G1 and click the Merge and Center tool. The second major group title should now be centered over the second group of column labels.
  7. Make the cells at B1:G2 bold. (This sets them off from your data.)
  8. Place your row labels into column A, beginning at cell A3.
  9. Place your data into the table, beginning at cell B3.

With your table completed, you are ready to create the chart. Just select your data table, including all the headings in the first two rows, then create your table. Excel automatically recognizes that you have two rows being used for the X-axis labels, and formats the chart correctly. Since the X-axis labels appear beneath the chart data, the order of the label rows is reversed—exactly as mentioned at the first of this tip. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Two-level axis labels are created automatically by Excel.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1188) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Two-Level Axis Labels.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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