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: Modifying Axis Scale Labels.

Modifying Axis Scale Labels

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 31, 2014)

It is very common for charts to use some sort of "shorthand" for values placed along an axis. For instance, if the values along an axis ranged from 0 to 80,000, you may want to have only the thousands portion of each value displayed on the axis. That way, instead of 20,000, 40,000, 60,000, and 80,000, you would see 20, 40, 60, and 80 along the axis. A note could then be made in a label that indicates the axis values are displayed in thousands.

You can very easily change the axis scale by simply modifying how the values on the axis are displayed. Follow these steps:

  1. Create your chart as you normally would.
  2. Double-click the axis you want to scale. You should see the Format Axis dialog box. (If double-clicking doesn't work, right-click the axis and choose Format Axis from the resulting Context menu.)
  3. Make sure the Number tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Axis dialog box.

  5. In the Category list, choose Custom.
  6. In the Type box, enter a zero followed by a comma.
  7. Click OK.

Only the thousands portion of the values in the axis should be displayed. You can then add another label, as desired, that indicates the values are expressed in thousands. If you'd prefer to not add the additional label, you can always use a format of "0,K" (without the quote marks) in step 5.

A different way to approach the problem is with these steps, which works in Excel 2000, Excel 2002, and Excel 2003:

  1. Create your chart as you normally would.
  2. Double-click the axis you want to scale. You should see the Format Axis dialog box. (If double-clicking doesn't work, right-click the axis and choose Format Axis from the resulting Context menu.)
  3. Make sure the Scale tab is displayed. (See Figure 2.)
  4. Figure 2. The Scale tab of the Format Axis dialog box.

  5. Using the Display Units drop-down list, choose Thousands.
  6. Click OK.

Excel changes the axis values so only the thousands portion is displayed, and inserts a label saying Thousands. Double-click on the Thousands label to edit the label, as desired, then drag it to any desired position.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3180) 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: Modifying Axis Scale Labels.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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