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Charley's Swipe File #45

This unusual Excel chart answers your readers' 'so what?' question by comparing current performance to a swarm of lines showing earlier performance


by Charley Kyd, MBA
Microsoft Excel MVP, 2005-2014
The Father of Spreadsheet Dashboard Reports

Charley's Swipe File #45One of the reasons charts are so useful is that they can provide context for their data. That is, charts can answer our readersí ďSo what?Ē questions.

This chart, based on one from the Wall Street Journal, does so in an unusual way.

Primarily, this chart displays the decline in US gasoline inventories during the first five months of 2012. The other lines provide context for the 2012 line.

As you can see, gasoline inventories fell about 20% from January to May. By itself, that information isnít very useful. But then we see the context that the swarm of other lines provides.

Those other lines quickly tell us that gasoline inventories fell by a greater percentage in the first five months of 2012 than at any time since at least 1981. And they hint at the direction where the 2012 line is likely to go during the rest of the year.

In short, the inventory is likely to rise. But this can happen only if we use less gas, produce more, or both. But for that to happen, gasoline prices probably must rise even more than they already have.

Unlike most charts, it really doesnít matter which line represents which year in the swarm of lines. We satisfy the readerís curiosity by varying the colors by decade.

But even that enhancement isnít critical. Whatís important is that we can see current performance within an environment defined by more than three decades of performance for the same measure.

(Continued in the documentation.)

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