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Best Practice

When to use column and bar breaks

What do you do when you need to minimize the effects that an outlier (in this case, the 1,500) has on obscuring the comparison between the other data in a chart? One way is to eliminate the outlier. But if you need the outlier on the chart to present the full message, what can you do?

Use a column/bar break. The chart below shows the outlier, but it breaks the scale for the outlier so that comparisons can be made between the other columns. You should only use this technique when you are not trying to show the huge disparity between the outlier and the other columns/bars. Then it's best to use the chart above.

How is this done? Well, we typically don't advocate messing around with data on the datasheet, but in this case it's needed. The outlier number needs to be reduced in the datasheet. Reduce the number until you are satisfied that the comparison between the other columns can easily be made. TO003 has scale breaks that can also be used as column/bar breaks. Download the scale breaks from that series and place it near the baseline on the outlier column/bar. Download the PowerPoint 2007 examples if you want to see first-hand what we've done.