How to Make a Line Graph in Microsoft Excel

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In Excel 2013, a line chart is the best option for graphing one or more sets of data across a chart with regular intervals. To make a basic chart, just select your data and pick a chart style on the Insert tab. Afterwards, you can edit the chart's appearance, add additional data or adjust the labeling on the X-axis of the chart.

After making a chart, you can copy it to another spreadsheet or a Word document with "Ctrl-C."
(Image courtesy of Microsoft)

Enter the data for each point on your line in a single column or row. Optionally, include another column or row with text labels for the X-axis. Place the label column to the left of the data (or, as a row, above the data).

Do not enter two columns of data to try to plot points on an X, Y grid. For this use, you need a scatter chart instead.

Enter data.
Image courtesy of Microsoft

Select your data and labels, open the Insert tab, click the line chart icon and pick a chart style. For a regular line chart, choose either the top left option, Line, or to add dots at each data point, use the one below it, Line with Markers.

Insert a line chart.
Image courtesy of Microsoft

Insert a line chart without a label column to use "1, 2, 3..." as the X-axis labels.

Insert a chart without labels.
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Double-click the X-axis labels to customize their appearance. You can't type custom numbers for the X-axis on a line chart, but you can change how often labels appear or adjust their formatting.

Use Specify Interval Unit in the Labels section to show labels only after the selected number of intervals. To change the formatting, pick a new Category in the Number section. For example, pick Currency to show the numbers as "$1, $2, $3..." To add text to the numbers, use the Custom category and add your text in quotes at the start of the Format Code line. Press Add to set the new format.

Change label formatting.
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Enter another column of data and click Select Data on the Design tab if you want to add a second line to your chart. Press Add in the Legend Entries section.

Add another line.
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Click in the Series Values box and drag to select the data for the second line.

If you have two columns of data from the beginning, select both before inserting the chart to automatically draw two lines.

Select data for the line.
Image courtesy of Microsoft

Press the Chart Elements "+" button to add additional labels, legends or other features to the chart. To enter the axes titles after enabling them, click on the blank titles and type their names.

Add chart elements.
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Choose a chart style on the Design tab. If you'd rather restyle or recolor an individual piece, double-click any element on the chart to see its options.

Style the chart.
Image courtesy of Microsoft

Tips & Warnings

  • To change to another type of chart or another line chart style, select the current chart and pick a new style on the Insert tab. Not all types of charts use data the same way, however, so your chart might come out incorrectly if you switch to a scatter chart or pie chart, for example. In these cases, delete the existing chart, reformat your data for the new chart type and insert a chart from scratch.
  • Any time you have a line chart that doesn't read data the way you want, try using a scatter chart instead. Even though the icons may seem like a scatter chart is merely a line chart with dots instead of lines, the two function very differently, and it isn't always obvious in advance which will work best.


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