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Tom West

"don't connect unrelated events" does not mean "using line charts only for continuous data". Your graph in the post 'Serving donuts' connects discrete items which are related (in that case, the discrete points are connected according to the ability level they represent).
The point I would take away is that continuous data should always be connected because its certainly related, while you should stop and think before connecting discrete data.

(My personal rule with line graphs and discrete categories is to ask whetehr or not you can have something meaningful half way between two points).


Talking about Chart Rules and Excel, you need to have a look on Chart Tamer:

Chart Tamer implements a set of sensible Chart Rules, it attempts to align Excel’s charts with the best practices of data visualization, as taught in the book Show Me the Numbers by Stephen Few of Perceptual Edge. It tames Excel’s charts, which seem to exhibit Microsoft’s belief that “more is better”, by bringing them into line with the data presentation philosophy that “simple is better.” We don’t need more choices—we need a few good choices that really work.



Chart Tamer improves the charts that we produce with Excel in the following ways:

  • It limits the list of available charts to the few that are most useful, thereby reducing the complexity of choosing an appropriate chart
  • It provides a simple new interface for selecting an appropriate chart, which guides us to the right selection when help is needed without bogging us down when it’s not
  • It adds three useful charts that aren’t currently available in Excel: dot plots, strip plots, and box plots
  • It revises the formatting defaults of Excel’s charts so that no extra work is necessary to create charts that work effectively
  • It provides colors for use in charts and elsewhere that were designed to work especially for data presentation


James McBride

I'm new to this site, so apologies if this question has been answered elsewhere here. You agree with Godin suggestion of dumping Excel and Powerpoint, but neither you nor he have suggested what your preferred alternative is. If it's R (as listed in your "Sources of Inspriation", then I have to disagree, as I find it too fiddly and complex to charts which look nowhere near as polished as those I get in Excel, and I say that as someone who spends too much time adjusting the default settings in Excel. It's a shame that Harvard Graphics fell so far behind in the transition from DOS to Windows.

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Kaiser Fung. Business analytics and data visualization expert. Author and Speaker.
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