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How to create a graph in Excel that impresses your boss

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John Sherman
2018-10-07

Excel, one of several programs in the Microsoft Suite does more than most people realize. Typically, this is something used for crunching numbers, but beyond that, Excel is an excellent solution for developing graphs. If your boss asked you to come up with a spectacular graph, it is worth the time to learn how to make one using the Excel program.

Types of Excel Graphs

  • Line Graphs – For this, you can select between 2- and 3-dimensional line graphs. If your boss wants to show trends spread over time, this is perfect. What makes this option unique is you can plot more than one parameter of data, including the number of products sold, types of products, average cost, and annual sales against different time periods or the same X-axis.
  • Column Graphs – This graph also works to show how parameters change over time. The difference between a column and line graph is this one uses just one data parameter. For example, you could show your boss the average cost of products sold within a given week.
  • Bar Graphs – While somewhat similar to column graphs, the difference is you work with a constant parameter, such as the amount of time an employee worked, which you would assign to the Y axis (vertical), and then add variables against data using the X-axis (horizontal).

Easy Instructions

  • Start by opening a blank spreadsheet
  • Fill in the correct axis based on the information you want to plot
  • With the data values added, go to the “Home” tab under the number section to assign the correct data type to each of the columns. For instance, if you plan to use column B to measure time, assign the “Time” option to the entire column. You can do that by moving your cursor over the letter for a particular column. You will notice a small downward-pointing arrow. Click on that cell to highlight it. Then, assign the data type.
  • Once you select a column, go to the “Insert” tab and choose the “2D Line Graph.” Immediately, a graph appears below the data values.

Creating a More Impressive Graph

  • Design – Why provide your boss with an ordinary graph when you can enhance the design? For instance, under the “Home” tab, you can change the coloring of one or all columns or rows. Again, you would highlight the cell or an entire column or row and then click on the look you want.
  • Layout – Excel even allows you to change the graph layout you just created. By clicking on the “Page Layout” tab, you can add pictures, shapes, and text boxes. The layout option also allows you to change the title of your chart or an axis title, plus more.
  • Format – For adding a black or colored border to a cell, column, or row, click on the “Format” tab. You can also choose a fill color, add an outline, and apply a special effect to shapes within your graph.

Best Practices

  • Keep it Clean – There is a difference between creating a fancy and cluttered graph. While you want something eye-catching, it is essential to use only the information that gets the point across to the intended audience.
  • The Right Theme – With excel, you can select from a variety of themes. Make sure you stick with one that coordinates with the type of graph and the data included. For this, you may need to experiment a little.
  • Correct Text – Because an Excel graph is primarily a visual tool, use concise yet descriptive language.
  • Element Placing – When you use graphical elements, titles, symbols, legends, and so on, make sure they enhance the graph as opposed to becoming an unwanted distraction.
  • Data Sorting – Before generating the final graph, be sure that you sort the data. That way, you can remove any duplications.

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