How to Choose the Type of Chart to Use

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated March 9, 2024)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


1

Tanner knows how to create charts in Excel. His problem is that Excel offers so many types of charts that he's not sure which type he should choose. He wonders if there are any resources available (online or other) that would explain how he would determine which type of chart he should use for his data.

Which chart type should you use? The definitive answer is "it depends."

Okay, that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but choosing the correct type of chart to use depends on three things—the nature of your data, what you are trying to communicate to those viewing the chart, and how your audience is used to seeing data presented. This should make sense, as some data is more suited to being shown columns or bars and other data is better suited for pie slices or scatter plots. The direct implication of this is that you need to know the characteristics of your data and, using that as a guide, eliminate certain types of charts from consideration.

The next idea would be to consider what you are trying to communicate. This may help you winnow down the number of available charts even more. This consideration is also closely related to the third idea—what your audience is used to seeing. If you introduce a brand new or esoteric type of chart to your audience, are they going to be lost? Will you spend more time explaining to them how to read the chart than you should?

Fortunately, as you are considering what type of chart to use for your data, there are a number of different sources available online that can make you feel more confident in your choices. ExcelTips readers suggested the following resources as good places to start your exploration, in no particular order:

https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/beginningexcel19/chapter/4-1-choosing-a-chart-type/
https://infogram.com/blog/choose-the-right-chart/
https://www.howtogeek.com/768067/how-to-choose-a-chart-to-fit-your-data-in-microsoft-excel/
https://www.optimizesmart.com/how-to-select-best-excel-charts-for-your-data-analysis-reporting/

The following Microsoft page is also interesting in what it offers:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/available-chart-types-in-office-a6187218-807e-4103-9e0a-27cdb19afb90

The page purportedly lists all the chart types available in Excel, but under the description of each chart type you can find ideas about the best types of data to use with the chart type. This can come in quite handy in making a decision.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12267) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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What is two more than 7?

2024-03-09 12:24:16

Ron S

Here are some more suggestions I made:

Pro Excel Chart Tips for Rapid Report Creation!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46CGcyP4dbo


How to Make a Bubble Chart in Microsoft Excel
https://www.howtogeek.com/804965/bubble-chart-excel/

Sandy Writtenhouse @sandystachowiak Jun 1, 2022,

When you want to display three data series on a type of scatter plot, then a bubble chart is the ideal choice. We’ll show you how to organize your data and create a bubble chart in Microsoft Excel.

As a variation of the scatter chart, a bubble chart is often used to show financial data. However, you can use this style of chart for other types of data where you want to emphasize certain values as bubbles.

Don't forget about "Smart Art". That can also create some charts
Create and Customize a Funnel Chart
https://www.howtogeek.com/753723/how-to-create-and-customize-a-funnel-chart-in-microsoft-excel/

Create and Customize a Treemap Chart in Microsoft Excel
How to Create a Venn Diagram in Microsoft PowerPoint/Excel/Word – Psuedo Venn (SmartArt)

https://www.howtogeek.com/691831/how-to-create-a-venn-diagram-in-microsoft-powerpoint/

One of Microsoft PowerPoint’s charms is the ability to convey messages through illustrations, images, and SmartArt graphics. In its library of SmartArt graphics, PowerPoint provides a Venn diagram template, which you can completely customize to fit your needs.

Pie Charts are a funny thing. The first charts I made on my personal computer were pie charts. Since then Pie Charts have become a real controversy. Some people are violently against them, and can list several good reasons. Others are still for them.

Here is one example, google for more
Why you shouldn’t use pie charts

https://scc.ms.unimelb.edu.au/resources/data-visualisation-and-exploration/no_pie-charts

Pies and doughnuts are off the menu!

Pie charts and their close cousins, doughnut charts, are part of our staple diet of graphs of data – we find them on blogs, in newspapers, in textbooks and in presentations at work. But one way to annoy your unassuming, mild-mannered local statistician is to ask for a pie chart (or worse, a Krispy Kreme).

The "best" pie chart: https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/S3fOCdMlpKkm1txsXKJ95DNbV7g=/0x0:500x330/1200x0/filters:focal(0x0:500x330):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/3500550/0003VL-9150.0.jpeg


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