3. Formatting the Vertical Axis

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

Lesson Notes

Formatting the vertical axis

- To format the vertical axis, just double-click on the axis itself
- This provides you with many options for altering axis
- However, most of these options you'll rarely if ever use

Changing the Number format

1 Double click on the axis
2 Click on the Number option
3 Return to Axis Options and choose the correct display unit

Removing and Re-instating an axis

- Remove an axis if you have only a couple of data columns
- Select the axis and then press the Delete key
- Instead of an axis, use data labels in each column segment
- To re-instate an axis, go to the Layout tab under chart tools and click on the Axis dropdown


One of the biggest problems Excel users face is formatting their Axis correctly.

And in particular the vertical axis.

Lets start by changing the unit of our vertical axis.

In this example, my revenue is in US Dollars, and I'd like my axis to reflect that fact.

To format your vertical axis, just double click.

And this opens the Format Axis dialogue box which gives you lots of ways to format your axis.

To format the number type, click on the number option.

I'll go to currency and select the US Dollar symbol.

I'll then close. And as you can see the dollar symbol has now been added to our axis.

If you're plotting large numbers in millions or in billions, you may also want to reflect this in the axis.

So Ill double-click to open up the format axis dialogue box again and instead of displaying the full unit, I'll just display the unit in millions.

So going to the display unit's drop down, I'll simply select millions.

And 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 were only plotting six years of data.

In this scenario, you could actually apply data labels to each of your column segments and remove the vertical axis.

To do this, just select it and press Delete.

We would also remove the Horizontal lines. Just select one and again press Delete.

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

The Format Axis dialogue 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 me show you this in 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 meets the horizontal axis.

So I'll double click on my vertical axis, go to the Minimum fixed, and I'll make it 2.5 million.

And when I close this, this causes our chart to zoom in on the top part of our values and it's much easier to make out the differences between our various sales people.

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 to select your chart and go to Axis Titles.

I'll add a vertical axis title.

Then simply type your 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 as I have shown here.

If you add the axis vertically, it's much more difficult to read.