So, you’ve analysed your data and plotted your chart but the axis labels are all skewey (technical term).
Let’s look at our options to make this better:
Chart Axis Alignment
We could use the alignment tools. Right-click axis > Format Axis > Alignment.
But before you waste time doing this there is a better way. Actually there are a few options.
First, you don’t want your audience having to turn their head to the side to read labels. If you’re plotting dates then you can:
Chart Axis Labels Option 1 - Abbreviate
This is fine if you’re only plotting one year, but if you want to plot more than that then you start to get the skewey effect again.
Chart Axis Labels Option 2 - Nested Axis Labels
Now, doesn’t that look better? To create this effect you simply need to house your year labels in a separate column to your month labels, like this:
Excel is clever enough to know that the year and month columns are your axis labels and it automatically nests them for you.
Now, while this is fine for year and month labels that are easily interpreted in an abbreviated form, what if you’ve got labels like products or regions that need the full label displayed? Read on for the solution.
Chart Axis Labels Option 3 - Bar Charts
The best solution is to use a bar chart which plots the columns horizontally like this:
Note: The Bar Chart is only available in Excel 2007 and Excel 2010.
‘But I’ve got Excel 2003’ you say!
If you’re unfortunate enough to still have Excel 2003 then you can insert a column chart and use Excel’s Camera tool to take an image of your chart, and then use the handles to turn it on its side.
There are limitations to the Camera Tool though. You can read more about it in my Excel Camera Tool Tutorial.
Another alternative is In-cell charts, but that’s a lesson for another day.
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