Data Series, Data Points, Data Labels

Definition and Use of Data Series and Other Chart Elements in Excel

Excel Data Points, Data Markers, Data Labels, and Data Series Definitions
Excel Data Points, Data Markers, Data Labels, and Data Series Definitions. © Ted French


A data point is a single value located in a worksheet cell that is plotted in a chart or graph.

A data marker is the column, dot, pie slice, or other symbol in the chart that represents that value in the chart. For example, in a line graph, each point on the line is a data marker representing a single data value located in a worksheet cell.

A data label provides information about individual data markers - such as the value being graphed either as a number or as a percent.

Commonly used data labels include:

  • Numeric values - taken from individual data points in the worksheet;
  • Series names - identify the columns or rows of chart data in the worksheet - commonly used for column charts, bar charts, and line graphs;
  • Category names - identifies the individual data points in a single series of data  - commonly used for pie charts;
  • Percentage labels - calculated by dividing the individual fields in a series by the total value of the series - commonly used for pie charts;

A data series is a group of related data points or markers that are plotted in charts and graphs. Examples of a data series are:

  • Individual lines in a line graph;
  • Individual columns in a column chart.

When multiple data series are plotted in one chart, each data series is identified by a unique color or shading pattern.

In the case of column or bar charts, if multiple columns or bars are the same color, or have the same picture in the case of a pictograph, they comprise a single data series.

Pie charts are normally restricted to a single data series per chart. The individual slices of pie being data markers rather than a series of data.

Modifying Individual Data Markers

If individual data points are significant in some way, the formatting for the data marker that represents that point in a chart can be modified to make the marker standout from other points in the series.

For example, the color of a single column in a column chart or a single point in a line graph can be changed without affecting the other points in the series by following the steps below.

Changing the Color of a Single Column

  1. Click once on a data series in a column chart - all columns of the same color in the chart should be highlighted - each column is a surrounded by a border that includes small dots on the corners;
  2. Click a second time on the column in the chart to be modified - only that column should be highlighted;
  3. Click on the Format tab of the ribbon - one of the context tabs added to the ribbon when a chart is selected;
  4. Click on the Shape Fill icon to open the Fill Colors menu
  5. In the Standard Colors section of the menu choose Blue

This same series of steps can also be used to change a single point in a line graph - just select an individual dot (marker) on a line in place of a single column.

Exploding Pie

Since individual slices of a pie chart are usually different colors to begin with, emphasizing a single slice or data point needs a different approach from that used for column and line charts.

Emphasis is usually added to pie charts by exploding out a single slice of pie from the rest of the chart.

Adding Emphasis with a Combo Chart

Another option for emphasizing different types of information in a chart, is to display two or more chart types in a single chart - such as a column chart and a line graph.

This approach is usually taken when the range of values being graphed vary widely, or when different types of data are being graphed. A common example is a climatograph or climate graph, which combines precipitation and temperature data for a single location on one chart.

Combination or combo charts are created by plotting one or more data series on a secondary vertical or Y axis.