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Describing Line Graphs (2)

How to understand and describe line graphs

Observe the following simple line graph:

It shows the population of Bulgaria from 2013 to 2021. You can see that in 2013 the population was more than 7.2 million and that by the year 2021 it had fallen to just under 6.9 million.

What change is shown by this graph? In this case we can see that the population of Bulgaria decreased from 2013 to 2021.

Also in this graph the line is fairly smooth, so we can say that the population decreased steadily.

How big was the change in population? The population in 2013 was 7.25 million and in 2021 it was 6.89 million. So there was a decrease of 0.86 million or 860,000 people.

To write a short description of this graph ask yourself (and answer!) the following questions:

  1. What exactly does the graph show? (Use the chart title to help you answer this question)
  2. What are the axes and what are the units?
  3. What changed?
  4. How much did it change?

Answering these questions will help you to write a short description of this simple graph.

Here is an example:

This graph shows population change in Bulgaria from 2013 to 2021. Bulgaria's population fell steadily from 7.25 million in 2013 to 6.89 million in 2021, a decrease of 860,000 people.


Other words you can use instead of fell or decreased are declined, dropped and went down .

Adverbs See the glossary definition you can use with these words are:

How much?
sharply, heavily, slightly, steadily, dramatically, significantly, considerably, quickly, rapidly, steeply, gradually, gently, substantially, precipitately, fractionally, drastically, marginally, markedly, progressively, continuously
by X% (by X per cent), by X (units), from X to Y, tenfold, fourfold ...
significantly, markedly, slightly, steadily, rapidly, considerably, continuously, dramatically
by X% (by X per cent), by X (units), from X to Y
sharply, rapidly, dramatically, steadily, slightly, markedly, significantly, considerably, steeply, drastically, continuously, substantially, quickly
by X% (by X per cent), by X (units), from X to Y
dramatically, sharply, slightly, considerably, steadily, significantly, rapidly, drastically, alarmingly, noticeably, markedly, radically, abruptly, substantially, gradually, gently, slowly
by X% (by X per cent), by X (units), from X to Y
went down
The above adverbs are not usually used with "went down".
by X% (by X per cent), by X (units), from X to Y

Important Notes

It is important to note that the above line graph is used to illustrate how to describe the basic information in the graph. But you have to be careful about looking not just at the graph, but also the X and Y axes.

In the above graph the Y axis starts at 7.2 million, not zero. So the decrease on the graph looks significant. But the percentage decrease over these years is not great. It falls from 7.2 million in 2013 to 6.9 million in 2021. This is a fall of slightly more than 4% (4.1666) over a period of 8 years.

If we show the graph with the X axis starting at zero we get a more realistic impression of this decrease.

So it is very important when interpreting graphs to be aware of how the data is presented. Not only do you need to look at the title, but also the axes, the units, and whether the scale starts at zero.

See how data is presented in authentic texts on the authentic line graph examples See authentic line graph examples page.

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