Excel 2013 & 2016: Examples of how NOT to create charts

Updated 2013.08.07


This chart, while it has time across the bottom as it should, has several problems:

(1) The units on the vertical axis are not labeled. The reader has no idea what is being depicted.

(2) There is no title on the chart. This also detracts from the reader's ability to figure out what is being depicted.

(3) The x-axis is divided into 1-year intervals except the years 1991 and 1992 are missing. This may be because the data was not available, and if so, the creator of the chart doesn’t really have many options. However, the reader of the chart needs to be aware that the slope of the line segments connecting the 1990 data points with the 1993 data points will be exaggerated (imagine the years 1991 and 1992 on the x-axis – the horizontal components of the line segments connecting the 1990 and 1993 data points would be 3 times as long as they are at the left, but with the same vertical change).



This chart has many problems. The reader has no idea what is being displayed because:

(1) There is no title.

(2) The numbers on the vertical axis are not labeled. Numbers this large should also be formatted with a comma.

(3) What are "Series 1", "Series 2", and "Series 3"? Also, note that even though the legend has blue, maroon, and yellow entries, only yellow bars are visible on the chart. This error is usually caused by failing to include some labels in your selection before invoking the chart wizard.



This chart has two problems:

(1) The units are not labeled! The reader has no idea what this chart is trying to convey.

(2) It's a 3-dimensional chart, and a pie chart that is laid on its side distorts the data in two ways: (i) the pie segments at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock are made to look smaller than they actually are, and (ii) the pie segments at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock are made to look bigger than they actually are. Look at the width of the number at 12 o'clock (182.10, 3%) and the number at 9 o'clock (511.20, 8%). The number at 9 o'clock is almost 3 times as large as the number at 12 o'clock, but you can't tell from this chart.



Look at the same chart as a 2-dimensional chart. The true relative sizes of the 12 o'clock and 9 o'clock segments are apparent here. Unless your goal is to deliberately mislead, do not use 3-dimensional pie charts.



This line chart has multiple problems:

(1) No title.

(2) It is supposed to show how things change over time (that's what all line charts are supposed to do), so the years should be on the bottom axis.

(3) The labels on the bottom axis are so big that only every other one is actually displayed. There is a data point between "National Health Expenditures" and "Personal Health Care", but it has no label.

(4) The units on the vertical axis are not labeled. Is this dollars? Thousands of dollars?

(5) Numbers as large as the ones displayed here should not be displayed with decimal places.



This pie chart has multiple problems:

(1) The title has a misspelled word.

(2) There is no description of what "resident population-selected characteristics" means.

(3) The chart would be much easier to read if the legend text values were actually next to their pie segments.