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Negatives in Pie Charts

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Negatives in Pie Charts.

Excel allows you to easily create charts based on the data in a worksheet. If you create a pie chart, Excel charts negative values as if they were positive (in other words, it uses the absolute value). You may, however, prefer to have the negative values charted as if they were zero—to not have a slice of the pie.

Normally, people create pie charts based on a simple set of values. Each value within the series represents a portion of the whole. Thus, pie charts are often created based on the result of some sort of formula, such as the sum of values in a column; the sums of each column are the basis for the pie chart. Instead of using a standard SUM formula for the values to be charted, you could use a formula such as the following:

=IF(SUM(D7:D11)<0,0,SUM(D7:D11))

In this case, the value to be charted is set to zero if the sum is less than zero, or it reflects the actual total if the sum is zero or above.

If your data is conducive to filtering, you could also set up a filter so that negative values are filtered out. This will cause those values to be ignored in the chart created by Excel.

Of course, all this being said, one would have to wonder if a pie chart is the appropriate chart for representing this type of data in the first place. After all, pie charts represent portions of a whole—yet by filtering or adjusting totals, portions of the whole are being removed. Granted, they are negative portions, but they are portions nonetheless.

Pie charts, by their nature, are not well-suited for displaying negative numbers. If negative numbers are expected, then column or bar charts are a much more appropriate choice. Why? Because they can represent data that falls to the left of or below a baseline—as is appropriate for negative numbers.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3208) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Negatives in Pie Charts.

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