Simple Tips for Creating Outstanding Column Charts in Excel

by Emily Cartman, Guest Blogger


Excel is known for its chart making skills; however, users still have difficulty creating amazing column charts using Excel. Here are some tips for making your task easier. Note that the rules given here can be applied to bar charts as well.

Start at Zero

That sounds simple enough. When you start a column chart at zero, you leave no room for confusion. When we look at a column chart, we have a tendency to compare data using the height of the columns. So, if the column starts at some point other than zero, we may get confused easily.

Sort the Columns

Your columns should be sorted in a logical order. There are several possibilities. You can sort them by their alphabetical order, chronological order, or descending order. Sorted columns are easy to read.

Add a Suitable Title

Your charts should have a meaningful title. This is necessary to communicate your ideas better.

Use Axis & Gridlines Instead of Labels

You don’t necessarily have to use labels. You can use axis and grid-lines instead. They will make your charts cleaner. If you decide to use axis and gridlines, choose small and dull axis label text. The axis line and the grid lines, too, should be dull.

Use Simple Formatting

Use subtle colors, special effects, fonts and backgrounds for formatting your charts. Too much visual effect will take attention away from the data. So limit the use of colors.

Here are some more tips to make your charts more impressive.

  • Consider highlighting a particular column. This will make it easier for the reader to grasp the data. You can, for example, highlight the column that shows the maximum/minimum value.
  • Use descriptive titles and clever data labels. They give more information.
  • Use shapes or drawing symbols to enhance the chart.
  • Make the chart interactive. This gives users control.

If you follow these simple tips, you will be able to create outstanding column charts.