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Line Charts vs Bar Charts

A common question I see asked a lot is – “When should I use a line chart, and when should I use a bar chart?”

Well, in this article, I will give you the answer.

When To Use a Line Chart

Line charts depict change over time.

You want to use a line chart to display how a specified measure or metric changes over intervals of time. Here are a few examples.

  • Monthly revenue over one year
  • Average temperature from month to month
  • Total sales over the past ten years
  • Hours worked over the past two weeks

As you can see from the examples above, time is a factor every single time.

And so the big takeaway is – line charts show how something changes over time.

When To Use a Bar Chart

Bar charts visually compare measures of nominal categories. Now, what does that mean?

It means that you use bar charts to compare the measures or metrics of categories that are named different things.


For example:

  • North
  • South
  • East
  • West

If you wanted to compare the total sales of each region, you would use a bar chart.

Bar charts make it easy to see the differences between the individual values.

And so, whenever you are trying to compare individual values to see the differences, use a bar chart.

The Big Takeaway

Overall, the big takeaway from this article is the following.

  • Use a line chart to show change over time.
  • Use a bar chart to compare individual values.

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