Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. 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: Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells.

Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 19, 2020)

When you create a chart from a data table, Excel does its best to translate the numeric values into data points on a chart, according to the specifications you provide. One area where Excel doesn't quite know what to do, however, is empty cells. If a cell is empty, it could be for any number of reasons—the value isn't available, the value isn't important, or the value is really zero.

You can instruct the program how you want it to treat empty cells by following these steps:

  1. Select the chart you want to affect.
  2. Display the Chart Design tab of the ribbon.
  3. In the Data group click the Select Data tool. Excel displays the Select Data Source dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Select Data Source dialog box.

  5. Click the Hidden and Empty Cells button. Excel displays the Hidden and Empty Cell Settings dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The Hidden and Empty Cell Settings dialog box.

  7. Using the controls in the dialog box, specify how you want Excel to chart empty cells.
  8. Click OK to close the Hidden and Empty Cell Settings dialog box.
  9. Click OK to close the Select Data Source dialog box.

The option buttons at the top of the Hidden and Empty Cell Settings dialog box (step 5) provide the following three settings:

  • Gaps. Excel leaves gaps in the chart where the empty cells appear.
  • Zero. Excel treats the empty cells as if they contained zero values, and plots accordingly.
  • Connect Data Points with Line. Excel examines the values surrounding the empty cell, guesses what the cell value should have been, and then connects the data points with a line.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6289) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Positioning a Graphic in a Macro

Macros are a great way to process information in a worksheet. Part of that processing may involve moving graphics around ...

Discover More

Labeling X-Y Scatter Plots

Figuring out how to get the data points in an X-Y scatter plot labeled can be confusing; Excel certainly doesn't make it ...

Discover More

Viewing Comments From a Specific Reviewer

If you have multiple editors (or authors) working on the same document, and each of them is adding comments, you may want ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Adding Data Labels to Your Chart

Adding labels to a chart can make the information presented in the chart more understandable. Excel allows you to add ...

Discover More

Creating Sparklines

Want a cool, small chart to show what your data is doing? You need a sparkline, discussed in this tip.

Discover More

Colorizing Charts

Need to change the color of different parts of your chart? It's easy to do when you apply the technique described in this ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six minus 3?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.