A chart is a tool you can use to communicate information graphically. Including a chart in your document can help you illustrate numerical data—such as comparisons and trends—so it's easier for the reader to understand.
Optional: Download our practice document.
Watch the video below to learn more about creating charts.
There are several types of charts to choose from. To use charts effectively, you'll need to understand what makes each one unique.
Click the arrows in the slideshow below to learn more about the types of charts in Word.
Word has a variety of chart types, each with its own advantages. Click the arrows to see some of the different types of charts available in Word.
Column charts use vertical bars to represent data. They can work with many different types of data, but they're most frequently used for comparing information.
Line charts are ideal for showing trends. The data points are connected with lines, making it easy to see whether values are increasing or decreasing over time.
Pie charts make it easy to compare proportions. Each value is shown as a slice of the pie, so it's easy to see which values make up the percentage of a whole.
Bar charts work just like column charts, but they use horizontal rather than vertical bars.
Area charts are similar to line charts, except the areas under the lines are filled in.
Surface charts allow you to display data across a 3D landscape. They work best with large data sets, allowing you to see a variety of information at the same time.
In addition to chart types, you'll need to understand how to read a chart. Charts contain several different elements—or parts—that can help you interpret data.
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different parts of a chart.
The data series consists of the related data points in a chart. In this example, as we can see in the legend, the yellow columns represent net sales in February.
The horizontal axis (also known as the x axis) is the horizontal part of the chart. Here, the horizontal axis identifies the categories in the chart. In this example, each genre is placed in its own group.
The legend identifies which data series each color on the chart represents. In this example, the legend identifies the different months in the chart.
The title should clearly describe what the chart is illustrating.
The vertical axis (also known as the y axis) is the vertical part of the chart. Here, the vertical axis measures the value of the columns. In this example, the measured value is each genre's total sales.
Word utilizes a separate spreadsheet window for entering and editing chart data, much like a spreadsheet in Excel. The process of entering data is fairly simple, but if you're unfamiliar with Excel, you might want to review our Cell Basics lesson.
To edit your chart again, simply select it, then click the Edit Data command on the Design tab. The spreadsheet window will reappear.
If you already have data in an existing Excel file that you'd like to use in Word, you can copy and paste it instead of entering it by hand. Just open the spreadsheet in Excel, copy the data, then paste it as the source data in Word.
You can also embed an existing Excel chart into your Word document. This is useful if you know you're going to be updating your Excel file later; the chart in Word will update automatically any time a change is made.
Read our guide on Embedding an Excel Chart for more information.
There are many ways to customize and organize your chart in Word. For example, you can quickly change the chart type, rearrange the data, and even change the chart's appearance.
Sometimes you may want to change the way your chart data is grouped. For example, in the chart below the data is grouped by genre, with columns for each month. If we switched the rows and columns, the data would be grouped by month instead. In both cases, the chart contains the same data—it's just presented in a different way.
If you find that your chosen chart type isn't suited to your data, you can change it to a different one. In our example, we'll change the chart type from a column chart to a line chart.
To change the arrangement of your chart, try choosing a different layout. Layout can affect several elements, including the chart title and data labels.
If you don't see a chart layout that has exactly what you need, you can click the Add Chart Element command on the Design tab to add axis titles, gridlines, and other chart elements.
To fill in a placeholder (such as the chart title or axis title), click the element and enter your text.
Word's chart styles give you an easy way to change your chart's design, including the color, style, and certain layout elements.
For even faster customization, use the formatting shortcuts to the right of your chart. These allow you to adjust the chart style, chart elements, and even add filters to your data.