Add error bars to a chart

Error bars (error bars: Usually used in statistical or scientific data, error bars show potential error or degree of uncertainty relative to each data marker in a series.) express potential error amounts graphically relative to each data marker (data marker: A bar, area, dot, slice, or other symbol in a chart that represents a single data point or value that originates from a worksheet cell. Related data markers in a chart constitute a data series.) in a data series (data series: Related data points that are plotted in a chart. Each data series in a chart has a unique color or pattern and is represented in the chart legend. You can plot one or more data series in a chart. Pie charts have only one data series.). For example, you could show 5 percent positive and negative potential error amounts in the results of a scientific experiment:

Chart with error bars

You can add error bars to data series in a 2-D area, bar, column, line, xy (scatter), and bubble chart. For xy (scatter) and bubble charts, you can display error bars for the x values, the y values, or both.

After you add error bars to a chart, you can change their settings as needed. You can also remove error bars.

What do you want to do?

Add error bars

Change error bar settings

Remove error bars

Add error bars

  1. On a chart sheet (chart sheet: A sheet in a workbook that contains only a chart. A chart sheet is beneficial when you want to view a chart or a PivotChart report separately from worksheet data or a PivotTable report.) or in an embedded chart (embedded chart: A chart that is placed on a worksheet rather than on a separate chart sheet. Embedded charts are beneficial when you want to view or print a chart or a PivotChart report with its source data or other information in a worksheet.), click the data series to which you want to add error bars.
  2. On the Format menu, click Selected Data Series.
  3. On the X Error Bars tab or the Y Error Bars tab, do one or more of the following:
    • To select a different type of error bar, click the type that you want under Display.
    • To change the method used to determine the error, select the method that you want under Error amount.

ShowLearn about equations for calculating the error amount

Use this option To use this equation Where
Standard Deviation Equation

s = series number

i = point number in series s

m = number of series for point y in chart

n = number of points in each series

yis = data value of series s and the ith point

ny = total number of data values in all series

M = arithmetic mean

Standard Error Equation

s = series number

i = point number in series s

m = number of series for point y in chart

n = number of points in each series

yis = data value of series s and the ith point

ny = total number of data values in all series

  • To change a custom error amount, click Custom. In the Plus and Minus boxes, specify the worksheet range to use as error amount values, or enter the values that you want to use, separated by commas, for example, 0.4, 0.3, 0.8.

 Note   If you change the worksheet values or formulas associated with the data points in the series, the error bars are adjusted to reflect your changes.

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Change error bar settings

  1. On a chart sheet (chart sheet: A sheet in a workbook that contains only a chart. A chart sheet is beneficial when you want to view a chart or a PivotChart report separately from worksheet data or a PivotTable report.) or in an embedded chart (embedded chart: A chart that is placed on a worksheet rather than on a separate chart sheet. Embedded charts are beneficial when you want to view or print a chart or a PivotChart report with its source data or other information in a worksheet.), click the error bar or data series that has the error bars that you want to change.

 Note   When you select an error bar, any changes that you make affect all of the error bars in its associated data series.

  1. On the Format menu, click Selected Data Series.
  2. Click the Y Error Bars tab or the X Error Bars tab, depending on the type of error bars that you want to change, and then do one or more of the following:
    • To select a different type of error bar, click the type that you want under Display.
    • To change the method used to determine the error, select the method that you want under Error amount.

ShowLearn about equations for calculating the error amount

Use this option To use this equation Where
Standard Deviation Equation

s = series number

i = point number in series s

m = number of series for point y in chart

n = number of points in each series

yis = data value of series s and the ith point

ny = total number of data values in all series

M = arithmetic mean

Standard Error Equation

s = series number

i = point number in series s

m = number of series for point y in chart

n = number of points in each series

yis = data value of series s and the ith point

ny = total number of data values in all series

  • To change a custom error amount, click Custom. In the Plus and Minus boxes, specify the worksheet range to use as error amount values, or enter the values that you want to use, separated by commas, for example, 0.4, 0.3, 0.8.

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Remove error bars

Or you can right-click an error bar, and then click Clear.

 Tip   You can also remove error bars immediately after you add them to the chart by clicking Undo on the Edit menu, or by pressing CTRL+Z.

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Applies to:
Excel 2003