Statistics Basics: Bar Graphs in Excel

Statistic Basics: Bar Graphs in Excel


Bar graphs are probably the most common graphs used; they are easy to execute and to read. The basic bar-graph has either a horizontal or vertical orientation and usually the bars do not usually touch, this allows the use of a single color for all the bars.

The bar graph on the left above is a column graph in Excel with bars of the same color. It has the amounts down the left side with the individual data bars labeled below the graph. On the right is the same data is presented as an Excel bar graph (when using Excel, Column and Bar, are the names given the two types of graphs but they are really both bar graphs with different orientations: column referring to vertical and bar to horizontal orientation. These can also be done with assorted colors for each data bar.

The bar graph above has different colored bars with each bar labeled by their colors below the graph and the amounts across the bottom axis of the graph. Using this graph looks nice but you need to decide which is more important, having the visually appealing colors or how the graph is labeled.


Choosing one bar graph over another is purely choice. You should look at how well it presents the data you are working with and how easy it will be for your audience to understand. The three charts I prepared do not have good titles. I did label the third one below the chart but you can label them when you are creating the charts. You need to be sure you have clear, concise titles since it tells your audience what it’s all about. My three charts should be titled ‘Monthly budget’. The data labels need to be easy to read and descriptive of the data but keep them short and sweet.


When you first use Excel to create your graphs, experiment. Make your data charts and then create several different graphs using the data. This will give you a clear picture of what works best. There will be times when you may want to use more than one graph for comparison or emphasis. When you start out with a new program give yourself time to learn how to use it and don’t be afraid to try different things.



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