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"The chart violates one of the rules of making column charts - the vertical axis is truncated at 53F, thus the heights or areas of the columns shouldn't be compared."

Following this logic, the only sensible "zero" for the temperature scale is -459.67F. Why? Read the second paragraph in
Any other "zero" for the vertical axis is as equally arbitrary as 53F.

Ducking and running now...


Dasve: Thanks for that needed note. What you're pointing out is that the "zero" is not to be taken literally. It depends on the scale. Nevertheless, the logic of the rule has to do with comparing two columns: when readers compare the areas of the two columns, they correspond neither to the raw values nor the difference. Using a dot plot solves this issue. The dot plot plus error bar is clearly better than the truncated column chart plus error bar - I am surprised many scientific journals continue to print the latter. Am I missing something?


No, following the logic, you don't use column charts in that situation. Climatic temperatures are an inappropriate data type for them, because their standard deviations are a tiny fraction of their numeric means.

(floating column charts are okay, though it should go without saying that the bottoms of the floating columns should all be above the line and visible)

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