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Excel 2010: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Improving Your Charts

So far, you've learned the key techniques you need to make sure your charts tell the right story. However, Excel lets you do plenty more, including adding trendlines, data tables, and error bars, and tweaking 3-D perspective and shapes. In the following sections, you'll learn even more about how to make the perfect chart.

Controlling a Chart's Scale

Many people don't think twice about the scale they use when they create a chart—instead, they let Excel set it automatically based on the values their chart has been built from. There's nothing wrong with this laissez-faire approach, but if you know how to take control of your chart's scale, you can make important data stand out and make it easier for people looking at your chart to spot relative differences in data and understand overall trends.

Usually, you'll be most interested in changing the scale of the value axis that runs on the left side of most charts. You can modify the scale of the value axis on most charts, including column charts, line charts, scatter charts, and area charts. (In a bar chart, the value axis actually runs horizontally along the bottom of the chart, although you can modify the scale in the same way as you do with these other chart types.) Pie and donut charts don't show a value scale at all.

Note

It's worth noting that quite a few unsavory individuals try to skew charts with crafty scale tricks. People often show two similar charts next to each other (for example, sales in 2006 and sales ...

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