What Chart Type should I use?

Nov 12, 2018 | Excel Hints and Tips, PowerPoint Hints and Tips, Word Hints and Tips

There is often a lot of confusion regarding which chart type should be used when to give the best impact and get the most out of the data.  These chart types are available in Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Power BI.  If you are unsure which to use the 2016 version has the option of recommended charts if you don’t know where to start which is helpful.  It looks at the layout of the data you are analysing to decide which options are likely to be most successful.  Here are some of the most popular choices and where you would use them.

Clustered Column or Clustered Bar

Clustered columnCompares values across a number of categories.  The order of the data doesn’t matter.  The column version is vertical, the bar version is horizontal.

Stacked Column or Stacked Bar

Stacked columnSimilar to the clustered version but the different categories are stacked on top of each other.  The height of the column or bar shows the overall total and the sections of the bar show the breakdown within this.

Pie Chart

PieShows the proportion of the whole with the full circle representing everything.  This works really well if you show percentage labels for the segments.  Shows how much larger some sections are than others.

Line Chart

Line chartShows trends over time with the time showing on the horizontal axis.  You can see if the figures are going up or down and if there is any seasonality.  Trendlines can be added to show predictions into the future.

Scatter Charts

scatter chartIndicate whether there is a dependency of one set of data based on the other.  For example, if you are good at maths are you likely to be good at English. The correlation is how good this dependency is.


treemapThis is one of several new chart types now available.  It shows proportions of a whole like pie charts do but by using rectangles instead of using a circle.

Combo Charts

combo chartUsed to show data which is vastly different in size on the same chart by using 2 different scales on the vertical or horizontal axis.  The combo chart type makes this much easier than it used to be.


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