How to Describe a Graph in Writing [+ 22 Examples]

Graphs are a powerful way to convey data visually, but describing them effectively is crucial.

I’ll guide you through the types of graphs and practical ways to write about them, whether in essays, reports, or presentations. Let’s make data storytelling seamless and comprehensive.

Types of Graphs

(This post may have afilliate links. Please see my full disclosure)
Four different types of graphs -- How to Describe a Graph in Writing
I made this image with AI — How to Describe a Graph in Writing

The first thing you need to know are the major types of graphs–and there are several.

Read on to learn the most important points about each one.

Line Graphs

A colorful line chart -- How to Describe a Graph in Writing
I made this image with AI — How to Describe a Graph in Writing

Line graphs are essential for displaying changes over time.

Each data point is plotted and connected by a line, making it perfect for tracking trends or progressions.

For instance, it’s often used in business to show quarterly sales or yearly revenue growth.

The slope of the line reveals trends – a steep rise means rapid growth, while a dip signals a decline.

Multiple lines can be included to compare trends across different categories, products, or demographics.

Always label your axes clearly, with time on the x-axis and the measured variable on the y-axis for straightforward comprehension.

Bar Graphs

A colorful bar chart -- How to Describe a Graph in Writing
I made this image with AI — How to Describe a Graph in Writing

Bar graphs excel in comparing different categories or groups.

Each bar represents a category’s value, offering a visual side-by-side comparison.

Their versatility makes them ideal for financial data, demographic information, or survey responses.

Vertical bars emphasize magnitude differences, while horizontal bars are useful when categories are long or numerous.

Each bar should be uniformly spaced to prevent misleading interpretations.

Use different colors or patterns for various groups to enhance readability and clarify distinctions.

Always start the y-axis at zero to accurately represent data differences and avoid exaggerating trends or disparities.

Pie Charts

A colorful pie chart -- How to Describe a Graph in Writing
This image is from Canva — How to Describe a Graph in Writing

Pie charts visually convey how individual parts contribute to a whole.

Each slice represents a category’s proportion, making it clear how each segment relates to others. Use them when showing relative percentages, like budget allocations or market shares.

The sum of all slices should always equal 100%, so they are not suitable for continuous data or comparisons across time.

Limit the number of slices to 5-7 for clarity.

Highlight critical slices with distinct colors or labels, and consider combining smaller segments into an “Other” category for better visualization.

Scatter Plots

A colorful scatterplot -- How to Describe a Graph in Writing
I made this image with AI — How to Describe a Graph in Writing

Scatter plots are crucial when examining relationships between two variables.

Each point represents a pair of data, plotted on the x and y axes.

This method is particularly valuable in scientific research, economics, and marketing, helping to identify trends, correlations, or clusters.

A positive correlation shows that as one variable increases, so does the other, while a negative correlation indicates an inverse relationship.

Clusters suggest groups with shared characteristics.

A trend line can be drawn to illustrate the relationship between variables.

Scatter plots are excellent for identifying outliers that may warrant further investigation.

Histograms

A colorful histogram -- How to Describe a Graph in Writing
I made this image with AI — How to Describe a Graph in Writing

Histograms look like bar graphs but represent frequency distributions for continuous data.

Data is grouped into bins, where each bar’s height shows the frequency of data points falling within that range.

For instance, histograms can reveal customer age distribution or test scores.

The bins should be of equal size, and the data continuous.

Adjust the number of bins according to data spread: too many create a confusing graph, while too few obscure patterns. Unlike bar graphs, histograms shouldn’t have gaps between bars unless there are no data points in that range.

11 Ways to Describe a Graph in Writing

Now let’s go through 11 ways that I’ve found to clearly and cleverly describe graphs in all your writing.

Shape

Describing the graph’s shape provides immediate visual insight into trends and patterns.

A linear trend suggests consistent data, while a curved line indicates shifts in growth rate.

Peaks represent rapid growth periods, whereas valleys highlight declines. Flat sections may signal stabilization.

If describing a bar graph, look for patterns like pyramid shapes or skewed distributions.

Pie charts often have distinct shapes when grouped segments stand out.

Highlighting these forms helps readers understand data dynamics quickly.

Examples:

  1. “The line graph’s shape is linear, showing a consistent rise in revenue.”
  2. “The bar graph forms a pyramid, indicating balanced age distribution.”

Size

Quantify the graph’s data range by focusing on its extremes.

Determine the minimum and maximum values to illustrate fluctuations, whether significant or moderate.

Emphasize the overall range to offer perspective on the extent of the trends.

For instance, large differences between bars or peaks highlight strong growth, while small variations suggest stability.

Providing size context gives your audience a sense of proportion, making the data’s impact more meaningful.

Examples:

  1. “The graph’s highest point is $12 million, contrasting sharply with its lowest at $1 million.”
  2. “Temperature shifts varied by 40°C, from -20°C in winter to 20°C in summer.”

Line

When describing line graphs, analyze the lines for clues about trends.

Is the line smooth or jagged?

A smooth line suggests stable growth, while jagged lines imply sudden changes.

Pay attention to the slope: a steep incline or decline represents rapid shifts, while a shallow slope signals gradual changes.

Highlight sections where lines intersect, converge, or diverge, indicating crucial turning points or contrasts between data sets.

Examples:

  1. “The line sharply inclines in Q2, then plateaus in Q3 due to seasonal trends.”
  2. “The two lines cross each other in September, revealing a pivotal shift.”

Axis Labels

Accurate axis labeling clarifies the data categories and units used.

For line graphs, the x-axis typically denotes time or specific groups, while the y-axis indicates the measured value.

Bar graphs require clear labels to identify the represented categories.

Scatter plots often show correlations, so it’s essential to label both variables accurately.

Incorrect labeling can lead to confusion, so ensure your axes directly correspond to the data presented.

Examples:

  1. “On the bar graph, the x-axis shows months, and the y-axis tracks monthly revenue.”
  2. “The scatter plot’s x-axis measures advertising expenses, while the y-axis records sales.”

Trend

Identifying and describing trends helps readers grasp the graph’s narrative.

Is there a general upward or downward trajectory? Are trends consistent, fluctuating, or mixed?

An upward trend signifies growth, while downward trends indicate decline.

If trends fluctuate significantly, highlight potential causes like seasonality or market changes.

Trends can also differ between data sets in the same graph, so compare trends side by side.

Examples:

  1. “The graph reveals an upward trend in quarterly revenue, suggesting steady business growth.”
  2. “Despite fluctuations, the overall trend is downward, indicating reduced consumer interest.”

Comparisons

When comparing multiple data sets in the same graph, focus on similarities and differences.

Highlight which sets lead or lag, noting by how much.

Compare growth rates, peak times, or relative sizes between bars or lines. Emphasize differences that are statistically significant or exceed expectations.

Highlight where data sets converge or diverge, offering insights into critical market trends or strategic opportunities.

Examples:

  1. “Product A outsold Product B, particularly in Q2 and Q3.”
  2. “While Company X’s revenue plateaued, Company Y showed remarkable growth.”

Anomalies

Identifying anomalies brings attention to unexpected data points that break the pattern.

Outliers, significant spikes, or dips can indicate errors, market disruptions, or seasonal effects.

Comparing these to broader trends can help interpret their significance.

Outliers might need verification, especially if they contradict the general pattern. Recognizing anomalies also guides corrective actions or further analysis.

Examples:

  1. “A sudden spike in Q1 2023 was due to a successful marketing campaign.”
  2. “The outlier data point in November appears inconsistent with historical trends.”

Gaps and Inconsistencies

Gaps or inconsistencies highlight where data is incomplete or missing, complicating analysis.

Gaps might result from system errors, data unavailability, or incomplete data sets.

Label these gaps clearly to prevent misinterpretation. Inconsistencies may also arise from misaligned data categories, differing collection periods, or varied data sources.

Understanding and explaining these gaps or inconsistencies is crucial for accurate reporting.

Examples:

  1. “Data gaps between Q3 and Q4 make trend analysis challenging.”
  2. “Sales data for Europe is inconsistent, possibly due to reporting delays.”

Units

Understanding and conveying the unit of measurement is essential for accurate interpretation.

Whether it’s dollars, percentages, or thousands of items, units contextualize data and allow accurate comparisons.

Inconsistent units across multiple graphs can lead to confusion, so ensure they’re uniformly labeled.

For continuous data, specify the increments used along the y-axis.

Examples:

  1. “Profits are measured in millions of dollars along the y-axis.”
  2. “Population size is recorded in thousands, revealing a significant growth trend.”

Colors and Patterns

Effective color and pattern use make graphs more readable.

Use contrasting colors to distinguish between data sets or groups. Patterns can help differentiate data if colors are not an option.

Avoid overusing color, which can cause confusion or distract from key insights.

Ensure that color choices align with industry standards or audience preferences, and label colors/patterns clearly.

Examples:

  1. “Blue represents the North region, while green highlights the West.”
  2. “The dotted line marks international sales, while the solid line shows domestic trends.”

Purpose

Clarify the graph’s primary purpose – whether it’s to compare, analyze trends, or identify correlations.

Knowing the graph’s goal helps focus on the most relevant insights.

For comparisons, emphasize differences and similarities.

For trends, focus on direction and consistency. Correlation graphs should highlight relationships between variables.

Clearly stating the graph’s purpose enables the audience to understand the intended takeaway.

Examples:

  1. “The bar graph compares the revenue of different departments over five years.”
  2. “The scatter plot correlates customer satisfaction scores with net promoter scores.”

Here is a good video about how to describe a graph:

YouTube Video by Skyrocket English — How to Describe a Graph

Paragraph Examples of Describing a Graph

Here are three examples of how to describe a graph in a paragraph.

Line Graph Analysis

The line graph displays quarterly revenue growth from 2019 to 2023. We see a steady increase from Q1 2019 to Q4 2020, followed by a sudden decline due to the pandemic. Revenue rebounded quickly in Q1 2021 and remained on an upward trajectory since, suggesting economic resilience despite setbacks.

Bar Graph Analysis

The bar graph compares monthly sales of three products over a year. Product A consistently outperformed the others, with notable peaks in summer months. Product B showed more stable growth, while Product C had fluctuating sales, possibly due to seasonal demand.

Pie Chart Analysis

The pie chart illustrates the market share of five smartphone brands. Brand X holds the largest share at 40%, followed by Brand Y at 25%. The remaining three brands together capture 35%, highlighting intense competition.

Final Thoughts: How to Describe a Graph in Writing

Describing graphs is crucial for clear data communication.

Remember to identify the graph type, focus on key features, and adapt language for the audience. Let your graph’s story shine.

Read This Next: