Line Charts: The Ultimate Guide

Imagine you’re staring at a sea of numbers—rows upon rows that seem to dance and wiggle, teasing your brain to make sense of them. That’s where the unsung hero, the line chart, comes swinging in, turning numerical chaos into a clear narrative.

Dive into the art and science of data visualization with me. We’re going to decode the magic behind those trend lines that businesses worship, economists dissect, and statisticians swear by. These are more than just lines on a graph; they’re stories of progress, tales of decline, sagas of the unexpected.

By the end of our journey, you’ll be crafting line charts that don’t just show data; they’ll speak. You’ll unravel the secrets hidden within time series analysis and comparative data—and how these insights can be a game-changer in your visual analytics game.

From the essentials of plot points on an X-axis and Y-axis to the nuances of chart design and interactive charts, prepare for a ride through the peaks and valleys of line chart mastery.

Table of Contents

  • What Is A Line Chart?
  • Line Chart Example
  • When To Use A Line Chart
  • How To Read A Line Chart
  • Types Of Line Charts
  • How To Make A Line Chart In WordPress
  • How To Make A Line Chart In Excel
  • How To Make A Line Chart In Google Sheets

What Is A Line Chart?

A line chart is a type of graph that displays information as a series of data points, called ‘markers,’ connected by straight line segments, typically used to visualize trends over time or comparisons between datasets.

Line Chart Example

Chart created with wpDataTables

When To Use A Line Chart

Let’s cut to the chase—line charts, they’re your perfect pick when the story’s about change and progression.

  • Tracking sales numbers over the quarters?
  • Watching user engagement spike and dip?
  • Eyeballing website traffic stats over the months?

That’s when a line chart shines. It turns the ebb and flow of those figures into something you can point at—clear, and no beating around the bush.

Say you’ve got this data set that’s unfurling over time. Plot that on a line chart.

Watch it do its dance—the rises, the falls, a bird’s-eye view of what’s hot and what’s not. People get it, fast; it’s visual, intuitive.

Whenever there’s a timeline involved, and you’re looking to illustrate a journey—whether that’s stock prices doing their rollercoaster thing or temperature readings telling their warming tales—a line chart steps up.

Pulls those abstract numbers into a visual story, a narrative that sticks, straight as an arrow.

How To Read A Line Chart

Image source: Microsoft

Step right up, let’s decode this line chart. You’re staring down the X-axis—that’s where the timeline hangs out, chronological and steady.

Tick tock, it goes from left to right, mapping out those moments in time.

Now, crane your neck up to the Y-axis. This is where the action’s at—those data points jump up and down, showing the highs and lows of whatever we’re tracking.

Could be dollar signs, website hits, maybe temperatures—whatever the numbers, they’re all plotted right there.

Eyes on the prize: the line itself. It’s like a trail through the wilderness of data.

A steady climb? Things are looking up.

A sharp descent? Buckle up, there’s turbulence ahead.

Watch for patterns, are they waving hello with peaks and troughs, or is it a flatline ride—steady as she goes?

That’s the line chart spilling the beans on the story behind the numbers.

Types Of Line Charts

Dive into the world of lines and charts, and you’ll find there’s more than one way to stitch data through time and space.

Take the classic simple line chart—a no-fuss, clear-cut way to showcase one data set’s journey over time. It’s the vanilla scoop that never goes out of style.

Simple line chart created with wpDataTables

Now, jazz it up—enter the multiple-line chart. It’s like a band jamming on stage, each line a different instrument, together creating this rich, layered tune of various data sets.

Multiple line chart created with wpDataTables

Got a ton of zigzagging between points? That might call for a segmented line chart. Each segment tells its own mini-tale, part of a greater saga.

Segmented line chart created with wpDataTables

Then there’s the area line chart—filling in everything under the line, painting a picture of quantity as well as quality. It’s not just the trajectory; it’s also the volume, nice and shaded.

Area line chart created with wpDataTables

Charts, lines, they’re the bread and butter for casting numbers into narratives. Each type tweaks the story, a different frame for a different effect. It’s form meeting function, with straight-up elegance.

How To Make A Line Chart In WordPress

To create a line chart in WordPress using wpDataTables, follow these steps:

  1. Access Chart Creation Wizard: In your WordPress admin panel, go to wpDataTables and select “Create a Chart”.
  2. Select Chart Type: Choose a render engine (e.g., Google Charts, Highcharts) and select the type of chart you want to create, such as a line chart.
  3. Define Data Source: Choose the wpDataTable that will provide data for your chart.
  4. Set Data Range: Specify the columns and rows from your table to be used in the chart. You can also configure the data range for rows and columns.
  5. Customize Formatting: Adjust chart formatting options like width, height, colors, and axis settings.
  6. Preview and Adjust: Review the chart in the preview section and make any necessary adjustments to the settings.
  7. Save and Get Shortcode: Once satisfied, save the chart to generate a shortcode.
  8. Insert Chart in Post/Page: Use the shortcode to insert the chart into your WordPress post or page.

How To Make A Line Chart In Excel

To make a line chart in Excel, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare Your Data: Your data should have at least two columns, with time intervals (or another independent variable) in the first column and dependent values in the others.
  2. Select Data: Click on a single cell within your data range or select the specific data you want to plot.
  3. Insert Line Chart: Go to the ‘Insert’ tab, click on ‘Insert Line or Area Chart‘, and choose your preferred line chart type.
  4. Customize Chart: You can further customize your chart by changing the title, legend, axis scale, gridlines, and other stylistic elements.

For multiple line graphs, ensure you have at least three columns of data. Each data series will be plotted individually.

How To Make A Line Chart In Google Sheets

To create a line chart in Google Sheets, you can follow these steps:

  1. Enter Data: Start by inputting your data into the spreadsheet.
  2. Highlight Data: Select the data you want to include in the graph.
  3. Insert Chart: Go to the top toolbar and click on “Insert Chart”.
  4. Choose Chart Type: Select the type of line chart you prefer, such as a regular line chart, smooth line chart, or combo line chart.
  5. Customize Chart: If needed, customize your chart using the available options.

FAQ About Line Charts

How do I create a line chart?

Alright, crafting a line chart is like making your data sing. Kick things off with your raw data securely parked in something like Microsoft Excel.

You pinpoint your key variables, tossing ’em on the X and Y axes, then Excel’s chart wizard does the heavy lifting, plotting each data point and connecting them, creating a visual harmony of lines.

What’s the difference between a line chart and a bar chart?

Line charts are your go-to when tracking changes over time, think Stock Market Analysis—the ups and downs over days or years.

A bar chart? That’s more for comparing stuff—different categories, side by side, showing contrast. They’re like cousins in the data visualization family, each with its own story to tell.

When is it best to use a line chart?

Hooked on trends? A line chart is your best bud. It’s ace for showing the movement of data points over periods, ideal for things like sales trends, temperature changes, or even website traffic. Whenever you need the big picture of progression or regression, line charts have your back.

What is the importance of the X and Y axes in a line chart?

Think of the X and Y axes as the stage for your data points’ performance. The X-axis lays down the timeline—could be seconds, days, or centuries—while the Y-axis is all about the values, those measurements that rise and fall.

Together, they set the scene where the story of your data unfolds.

Can line charts show multiple data sets?

Absolutely. Picture a choir, different voices blending together. Line charts can harmonize multiple data sets on the same grid.

What you get is a comparative view, tracking several trends at once. It’s like seeing different instruments in a symphony, each playing its part in the broader melody.

How can I highlight significant data points on a line chart?

Drawing attention to key moments in your data is super straightforward. In tools like Tableau or Google Charts, you can amplify those special points with markers, maybe change their size, or throw on a bold color.

It’s like putting a spotlight on the soloist during a captivating performance.

What are common mistakes to avoid when making line charts?

Overcomplicated charts are the biggest party poopers. Cramming too many lines, using confusing colors, or neglecting the legend can make your chart as clear as mud.

Keep it simple. Stick to a coherent color scheme and let your data storyline breathe. Less is often more with infographics, you know?

How do I choose the right scale for my line chart?

This is a bit of a balancing act. Your scale has to be just right—to reveal the true nature of your trends without skewing perception.

If your data’s playing in narrow margins, tighten up that scale. But if it’s sprawling, zoom out. Think of it as setting the zoom on a camera to get the best picture.

Can line charts be animated or interactive?

Oh, yes! Get this—modern analytics tools can make your charts come alive with motion or respond to user actions.

Imagine a line chart where you can hover, click, and drill down into the data points for more detail. It’s a fantastic way to engage and inform users on a whole new level.

Patterns and trends are the crystal balls of the business world. A well-constructed line chart can forecast sales, budget needs, or even predict customer behavior.

By reading the tea leaves of your line graph, you can steer the ship clear of rocky shores or catch the right wind to profitsville. It’s all about those informed, strategic calls.


Wrapping things up, this odyssey through the line chart universe reveals its powerhouse status in the data visualization toolkit. A chart, at first glance, a mere squiggle—now understood as a cipher key to realms of trends and shifts.

  • We unraveled the nuances, from plotting data points to interpreting those slick trend lines.
  • Embraced the elegance of simplicity—clear legends, intentional color pops—to make charts that stick.
  • Teased out the symphony of multi-data sets singing in harmony on a single graph.

Under our belts now? A sturdy grasp of crafting charts that don’t just take up space—they tell tales and guide decisions. With these insights, readied we are to carve out visuals that don’t merely represent data—they echo stories; they inform strategies, and yes, they sometimes predict the future.

Here’s to wielding this knowledge with a mix of wisdom and responsibility, creating line charts that sing data’s deepest truths to all who dare to interpret them.

Milan Jovanovic
Milan Jovanovic

Product Lead

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