3. Formatting the Vertical Axis


The vertical axis often needs to be altered when building charts. Find out how to make changes to the axis correctly in this lesson.

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  1. Changing Axis Units (00:11)

    To format the vertical axis, double click it to open the Format Axis window, which provides various ways of formatting the axis. In this example, we want to change the currency of our vertical axis. We do this by selecting Number, and selecting the desired currency from the Symbol dropdown.

    When dealing with large numbers, like millions or billions, you might want to reflect this on the axis. In our chart, we want to display the axis in millions. To do this, we select Display Units from the Format Axis window, and select millions from the dropdown. This makes the axis much easier to understand.

  2. Removing the Vertical Axis (01:13)

    If you have only a few columns, you might prefer to apply data labels to each column instead of having a vertical axis. If you want to remove the vertical axis, you simply click on it and press Delete.

    To add the axis back after deleting it, select the chart, go to the Design tab of the ribbon, select Add Chart Element, then Axes, and select the axis you want to add.

  3. Adjusting the Minimum Value (01:51)

    If you have a chart containing several large numbers that are reasonably similar in size, then it can be a good idea to adjust the minimum value of the vertical axis. To do this, we open the Format Axis window, and adjust the minimum value to whatever we feel is appropriate. By doing this, we can zoom in on a particular part of the chart and more easily see the differences between the different numbers.

  4. Axis Titles (02:52)

    To add an axis title to a chart, select the chart, then from the Design tab of the ribbon, select Add Chart Element, then Axis Titles and select the title you want to add. We can then name the axis title using the formula bar.

    If the name of the axis is included in the name of the chart, then you don’t need to add an axis title. If you do add one, you can align it horizontally by double clicking the axis title, and formatting the text direction as horizontal. This makes the axis title much easier to read.


One of the biggest problems Excel users face is formatting their axis correctly. Particularly, the vertical axis. In this lesson, we'll learn how to adjust the formatting of the vertical axis of a chart. Let's start by changing the unit of our vertical axis. In this example, our revenue is in U.S dollars and we'd like the axis to reflect that fact. To format the vertical axis, just double-click. This opens the format axis dialog box, which gives you lots of ways to format the axis.

To format the number type, we'll click on the number option, go to currency, and select the U.S dollar symbol.

We'll then close, and as we can see, the dollar symbol has now been added to our axis.

If we're plotting large numbers, in the millions or billions, we may also want to reflect this on the axis. We'll double-click to open up the format axis dialogue box again and instead of displaying the full unit we'll just display the unit in millions. We'll navigate to the display units drop down and simply select millions.

This makes the axis a lot smaller and a lot neater. In certain circumstances, you may not need a vertical axis at all. Say for example, we're only plotting six years of data.

In this scenario, we could actually apply data labels to each column segment and remove the vertical axis. To do this, just select it and press delete. We'd also like to remove the horizontal lines, so we'll select one, and again press delete.

To bring an axis back after removing it, go to axis, and select the relevant option.

The format axis dialog box has many adjustments you can make to the vertical axis, but to be honest, switching the minimum value is the only one that I tend to use regularly. Let's look at an example.

Here we have 15 values that are all reasonably similar in size.

It would be great if we could zoom in and see the differences in these values a lot more closely. To do this, we'll change the value at which the vertical axis can meet the horizontal axis. So we'll double click on the vertical axis, go to the minimum, and make it 2.5 million.

When we close this, the chart zooms in on the top part of the values, and it's much easier to make up the differences between the various salespeople.

If you have large numbers in your chart, but the differences between these large numbers are quite small, always consider adjusting the minimum value on your vertical axis.

Now let's move on to adding axis titles. The easiest way to do this is just select the chart, and go to axis titles.

We'll add a vertical axis title, then simply type the title in the formula bar, and press enter.

I tend to include the name of my axis in the title of my chart.

And as a result, I almost always leave them out. However, if you do plan on adding an axis title, I would suggest adding it horizontally, like this.

If you add a label vertically, it's much more difficult to read.

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