Checklist for Writing about Charts, Graphs and Tables

A checklist to help you write better chart, graph and table descriptions
 

ASK YOURSELF (AND ANSWER!) THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:

 

1. What exactly does the chart/graph/table show?

Use the title, and possibly the axes, to answer this question.

For example:

This graph shows the price of computer memory from 2015 to 2022.
This graph illustrates the price of computer memory from 2015 to 2022.
These graphs illustrate the price of computer memory from 2015 to 2022.

 

2. What are the axes and what are the units (for graphs and charts)?

You don't have to include this information in your description but asking yourself the question helps you to avoid errors.

For example:

This X axis shows time in years and the Y axis show price per kilobyte of memory in dollars.

 

3. Are there any obvious trends?

If there is an obvious trend, it is important to mention this.

For example:

You can see from this graph that the price of computer memory fell steadily over the period in question.

 

4. Is there any significant information?

Look for obvious differences such as the largest, the smallest .

For example:

Sweden had the largest proportion of people using the Internet in 2019.

 

5. Are there any obvious exceptions to general trends?

You won't normally see a graph with a straight line; most will fluctuate in some way or another. Once you have identified a trend, point out the exceptions.

For example:

Although the number of cinema goers increased from 2014 to 2019, there were significant falls in 2020 and 2021.

 

6. What conclusions can you draw from the information presented in the graphs / tables / charts?

Be careful not to draw conclusions which are not supported by the information in the graphs / charts / tables.

For example:

It is clear from the information presented in these charts that Internet use is increasing worldwide and will probably continue to do so as the price of Internet access falls. The second part of this sentence (unless the graph includes a projection) is pure opinion or speculation. So you should not include it as part of the description of the graph.

 

Other language you could use:

The data suggest / show that ...

The most significant fact is that ...

In spite of this increase / decrease, .....

This could well be due to ...

This is supported by the fact that ...

An important point to note is that ...

It is quite clear form this data that ...

The chart indicates that ...

 

 


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