Organize data by learning how to make a line graph in Excel. Present information over time with this simple guide to creating a line graph.
As you may have seen throughout your various uses of Excel, the program is a great way to store and organize information. Your worksheet is meant to lay out all the information you have in a way that is easy to follow.
But did you know that Excel has ways to organize this information even further? With Excel, you can organize your information into line graphs, or line charts, as they are sometimes referred to. This simple guide will show you have to present your information in a more visual manner and with more organization.
What is a Line Graph?
Line graphs are one of the simplest tools to create within Excel. With this said, its simplicity does not outweigh its importance. Even Leonardo Da Vinci said, “simplicity is the greatest form of sophistication.” If you didn’t already know, they are popular in the field of statistics and science, as they show trends and are simple to plot out. So what is a line graph? In short, it is a chart used to demonstrate a change in quantitative data over a given period of time.
Independent values (e.g. time variables) are plotted along the horizontal x-axis. Dependent values (e.g. sales, prices, etc.) run along the vertical y-axis. Any negative values are located below the x-axis. The lines that rise and fall along the graph indicate trends within the data set. Upward slopes show an increase of values whereas downward slopes show a decrease.
When Should You Use a Line Graph?
A question that goes hand in hand with how to make a line graph is when should you use one? Below, we have listed optimal situations for line graphs to work.
- To give a visual of trends and changes
- When you need to visualize a large and complex amount of data
- To show relationships between multiple sets of data
When You Should Not Use a Line Graph
Just as there are optimal times to use a line graph, there are also times when you should avoid using them. Below, we have listed situations where line graphs are not optimal to use.
- Large stand-alone data sets
- Continuous data (you should use a bar graph instead)
- Percentages and proportions (you should use a pie chart instead)
Why Use Line Graphs?
Line graphs are a great way to show information over time. Information over time can be very crucial regarding businesses. Whether you are trying to present rises and drops in sales or figuring out which month brings in the most customers, line graphs are excellent resources to utilize.
For example, the owner of a zoo may want to know which animals are the most popular and which ones are lacking popularity. Over the timespan of six months, they’ve been tracking how many people visit the giraffes, the lions, the monkeys, and the elephants. Now they want an easy way to organize this information to present it.
There are several ways you can present information, but lines graphs are easily one of the simplest ways. One of the great things about line graphs is that you can have multiple lines on one graph. Keep reading to learn how to make one yourself.
How To Make A Line Graph In Excel
Let’s continue using our zoo example to demonstrate how to make a line graph in excel. You should start by laying out your information in Excel like you normally would. The zoo information can be categorized by listing the animals across row 1. The six months, let’s say May through August, can be listed down column A. The numbers are filled in accordingly.
Once you have all your information entered in, you are ready to create a graph. Keep in mind that since there are multiple points of data here, you will have multiple lines on your graph. The great thing about line graphs is that you can use as much data over time as you want – just try not to overwhelm the graph, or it may be hard to read.
Beginning with Creating your Line Graph in Excel
To begin your graph, highlight the entirety of the information being represented. Click on the Inset tab and locate the Charts section. Find the icon that says “Inset Line or Area Chart.” Click on that to see a drop-down menu of various charts. Here, you will see a variety of options. Feel free to explore all of these options to see what they look like. For now, we are going to select a chart from the first section labeled 2-D Line.
Click the very first option. This will give you a chart that has multiple, different colored lines intertwined. This option is the easiest way to show each individual’s information in comparison with others. If you find that it is hard to tell where each point of information is, choose the chart that says “Line with Markers.” This graph will add points to each piece of information, which can make it easier to locate them.
As you have already noticed, there are several varieties and options to choose from. You can decide which option is best for your purposes once you have nailed down how to use these graphs.
Editing Line Graphs
You’ve created your first line graph! It looks great, but perhaps you want to change it up a little. Excel offers many ways to customize and edit your line graph once you’ve made it.
For one, you can change the graph’s overall style. Select the graph you have created and click on the Design tab. Under this tab, you will see several design options to choose from.
These options change the color, the fonts, the lines, the background, and can even do things like add numbers right on your graph’s points. Take a minute to scroll through and find a style that suits your taste and your needs.
Additionally, you can add on other individual elements to boost the intelligence of your graph and make it more detailed. Still, under the design tab, locate the “Add Chart Element” button. Click to find a drop-down menu listing items you can add such as Axes, Chart Title, Data Labels, Error Bars, and more.
Rather than adding each element one by one, you can also take a look at the “Quick Layout” menu located right next to the “Add Chart Element” menu. The Quick Layout feature gives you various layouts including different combinations of chart styles and additional elements. You may find a chart you were going to create yourself already exists in this menu!
The “Change Colors” menu gives you a quick and simple way to change the colors on your graph. From this menu, you can generate your own personal color scheme to your taste – even adding and editing line markers.
Finally, it is important to remember that once you’ve created your line graph, the information on it is not final. If you realize you’ve put in the wrong numbers or something has changed, you can easily update your graph by updating your original information. Simply change the information in your Worksheet, and the graph will automatically update itself.
The Advantages of Using a Line Graph to Demonstrate Data
A line graph gives a few advantages contrasted with other information portrayal strategies, for example, a bar or pie outline. There are three qualities which make it normal in numerous kinds of work, incorporating substantial use in data use or longitudinal studies.
A standout amongst the most significant advantages is the longitudinal fitness of a line chart. The timetable for a followed occasion can without much of a stretch be plotted along with an x/y pivot. This demonstrates a realistic portrayal of the ascent or fall of information focuses. Missing information can be plotted along the line with some level of sureness or mistake likelihood. This is additionally observed with chart assembly, which is regularly observed in monetary information focuses. For instance, the cost a customer is eager to pay for a thing can be crossed with a beneficial offer point for the organization to achieve the perfect market cost.
Another advantage of the line diagram is the correlation factor as referenced quickly above. At least two things can be contrasted with cross focuses, which takes into account at the base recounted proof of an association. It ought to be noted not all line diagrams will have a similar beginning stage on a straight chart speaking to a longitudinal report. The production of a starting point along the pivot can show the continuation or incorporation of various information in time.
The last advantage, as odd as it sounds, is the general shading generation of the line diagram. Line diagrams take into account a lot more approaches to speak to the information focuses. A reference chart can utilize shading to the contrast between thought about things, yet hues don’t generally interpret crosswise over various print mediums. Line diagrams can utilize shading or distinctive line styles, for example, dabs or dashes. While it appears to be a basic thing, this bit of leeway permits line diagrams to more readily move to dark/white paper print.
How to Make a Line Graph: Final Review
While there are still many details on how to customize and edit graphs, this guide gives you a great starting point to use this convenient feature. Use line graphs as an excellent way to organize and present data changing over time. As simple and easy as it is to create and use, it can also make a huge difference in any project or presentation you are making!