Noting a False Zero On a Chart

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 27, 2013)

1

Stephe created a chart and, by using 'Format Axis/Scale,' limited the y-axis to show only the range from 400 to 450. This accentuates variation that would be almost invisible if his chart included the entire range from zero. He notes that this technique has a potential for misleading by exaggeration (whether deliberate or not). Therefore, there is a convention that a zig-zag should be inserted at the bottom of the y-axis to highlight the fact that a 'false zero' is being employed. Stephe wonders if there is a way to add this notation to an Excel chart.

There is not a way to add this indicator automatically. That means you could add one manually, by creating a small graphic with the symbol and then inserting the graphic at the appropriate place on the chart.

There are other approaches that could be used; some of the ideas from these websites may help:

http://peltiertech.com/Excel/Charts/BrokenYAxis.html
http://tushar-mehta.com/excel/newsgroups/broken_y_axis/tutorial/

Another approach might be to combine two charts based on different ranges of your data set. Follow these general steps:

  1. Create your main chart based on all your data, without the adjustment to the y-axis.
  2. Create a second, smaller chart showing only your desired range (400 to 450).
  3. Position the second chart over the first chart (overlay it) so that it fits into an empty area of the first chart and doesn't hide any data points.
  4. Format both charts as desired.
  5. Group the two charts together so they are treated as a unit.

The benefit to this approach is that all your data is visible, a perception of skewing is eliminated, and people can still see the detail that you desire.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7879) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Changing Fonts in Multiple Workbooks

If you need to change fonts used in a lot of different workbooks, the task can be daunting, if you need to do it manually. ...

Discover More

Word Link to Create a New Excel Workbook

It's easy to create and include links in your documents to other sources, in and out of Word. There are some limitations you ...

Discover More

Activating the Formula Bar with the Keyboard

Hate to take your hands off the keyboard while working on a worksheet? Here's one way to activate the Formula Bar without the ...

Discover More

Program Successfully in Excel! John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA today!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Changing Chart Size

Place a chart on a worksheet and you may not be satisfied with its size. Changing the size of a chart is a simple process ...

Discover More

Putting a Chart Legend On Its Own Page

Displaying information using charts in Excel is easy and there are a variety of chart styles to choose from. Integrated into ...

Discover More

Excluding Some Data from a Chart

Excel is a whiz at creating charts from your worksheet data. When the program tries to determine what should be included in a ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is eight more than 7?

2015-02-25 01:31:46

Beatriz

Could you explain to me what is a 'false zero' exactly ? thank you


Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing
Share