Axis breaks in Excel are used to visually represent discontinuities or significant differences in data ranges on a chart.
They help prevent distorted or misleading representations of data by creating gaps in the axis scale.
Axis breaks are useful when there are extreme values or outliers that would otherwise compress other data points, making it difficult to interpret the chart accurately.
How to break chart axis in Excel
In Excel, charts are widely used to visually represent data. Sometimes, you may encounter a situation where the values on your chart axis cover a wide range, making it difficult to visualize smaller values accurately.
One way to address this issue is by breaking the chart axis. Breaking the axis allows you to focus on specific ranges while still providing an overview of the entire data set.
In this tutorial, we will discuss how to break the chart axis in Excel:
Step 1: Prepare your Data Before creating a chart and breaking the axis, ensure that you have the necessary data available in your Excel worksheet. Make sure the data is properly organized with appropriate headings for each column or series.
Step 2: Create a Chart Select the data range you want to include in your chart. Then, navigate to the “Insert” tab in the Excel ribbon and choose the chart type that best suits your data, such as column, bar, line, or scatter chart. Click on the desired chart type to create a basic chart based on your selected data.
Step 3: Format the Chart Axis Once your chart is created, click on any part of the axis you wish to break to select it. You can select either the horizontal (X) axis or the vertical (Y) axis, depending on the type of chart you have created. Right-click on the selected axis and choose “Format Axis” from the context menu.
Step 4: Adjust Axis Scale Options In the “Format Axis” pane, navigate to the “Axis Options” section. Look for the “Bounds” section, which controls the scale of the axis. By default, the “Automatic” option is selected, which automatically determines the scale based on the data values. To manually break the axis, select the “Fixed” option.
Step 5: Specify Axis Bounds After selecting the “Fixed” option, you can manually specify the minimum and maximum values for the axis bounds. Enter the desired values according to your data range. To break the axis, set a new value as the upper or lower bound that will create an empty space on the chart.
Step 6: Customize the Break To make the break in the axis more visually apparent, you can add a line or symbol representing the break. In the “Axis Options” section of the “Format Axis” pane, locate the “Breaks” subsection. Check the box next to “Add Break.” You can then choose the type of break line or symbol you prefer, such as a wavy line or zigzag line.
Step 7: Adjust the Chart Data In some cases, breaking the chart axis can result in certain data points being hidden or distorted. To address this, you may need to adjust the data series or add secondary axes. Right-click on the data series you want to modify, choose “Format Data Series,” and explore the available options to customize how the data is displayed.
Step 8: Review and Refine After breaking the chart axis, carefully review and refine your chart to ensure it effectively represents your data. Pay attention to labels, legends, titles, and any other elements that may require adjustment to maintain clarity and readability.
Make a Plan on How you Want to Break the Bar Chart
Breaking a bar chart axis in Excel can be an effective way to highlight specific data points or emphasize variations within a larger data set.
By strategically breaking the axis, you can provide a clearer representation of data values that differ significantly from the rest. In this tutorial, we will outline a step-by-step plan to break a bar chart axis in Excel effectively.
Step 1: Understand Your Data and Objective Before breaking a bar chart axis, it is essential to have a clear understanding of your data and the objective of your visualization.
Identify the specific data points or ranges that require emphasis and decide how you want to highlight them.
Determine whether breaking the axis will enhance the interpretation of your data or if alternative methods might serve your purpose better.
Step 2: Select the Appropriate Bar Chart Type Choose the most suitable bar chart type for your data. Excel offers various options, including clustered bar charts, stacked bar charts, and 100% stacked bar charts.
Consider the nature of your data and the insights you aim to convey when selecting the chart type.
Step 3: Prepare Your Data Ensure that your data is organized in a tabular format with appropriate column headers.
Make sure the values to be represented in the bar chart are available in a single column or row. If needed, perform any necessary calculations or aggregations on your data before proceeding.
Step 4: Create the Bar Chart Select the range of data you want to include in your bar chart. Navigate to the “Insert” tab in the Excel ribbon and choose the desired bar chart type from the “Charts” group.
Click on the selected chart type to create a basic chart based on your data.
Step 5: Format the Axis To break the axis, right-click on either the horizontal (X) or vertical (Y) axis of the bar chart and select “Format Axis” from the context menu. In the “Format Axis” pane, go to the “Axis Options” section.
Step 6: Specify Axis Bounds In the “Axis Options” section, choose the “Fixed” option to manually set the minimum and maximum values for the axis bounds.
Determine the desired range for the axis and enter appropriate values in the provided fields. This will create an empty space on the chart where the axis is broken.
Step 7: Customize the Break Line or Symbol To make the axis break more visually apparent, you can add a break line or symbol.
In the “Axis Options” section of the “Format Axis” pane, locate the “Breaks” subsection. Check the box next to “Add Break” and choose the preferred type of break line or symbol, such as a wavy line or zigzag line.
Step 8: Adjust Data Labels and Chart Elements Review your bar chart and adjust data labels, chart titles, legends, and other elements as needed.
Ensure that these elements are positioned correctly and provide clear information about the data represented in the chart.
Step 9: Test and Refine Take the time to test and refine your broken bar chart.
Check if the broken axis effectively highlights the intended data points or ranges. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure clarity, readability, and accuracy.