Excel Tutorial: What Are Legends In Excel


If you've ever worked with Excel, you've likely come across the term "legends" when creating charts or graphs. But what exactly are legends in Excel, and why are they important to understand? In this tutorial, we'll explore the explanation of what legends are in Excel and discuss the importance of understanding legends in order to effectively interpret and communicate data.

Key Takeaways

  • Legends in Excel are essential for interpreting and communicating data in charts and graphs.
  • Understanding the different types of legends and how to create and customize them is crucial for effective data visualization.
  • Best practices for using legends include keeping them clear and concise, and using them to enhance data visualization.
  • Interpreting legends involves understanding the relationship between data and legends, and making use of color and formatting.
  • Common issues with legends in Excel can be troubleshooted and fixed to ensure accurate data representation.

What are legends in Excel

Legends in Excel refer to the visual representation of data labels or categories in a chart or graph. They are used to provide context and clarity to the data being presented.

Definition of legends in Excel

Legends in Excel are the key or guide that helps in interpreting the data represented in a chart or graph. They are typically located at the right or bottom of the chart and consist of colored or patterned symbols or shapes along with corresponding labels.

Examples of where legends are used in Excel

  • In bar charts to represent different categories or groups of data
  • In pie charts to identify the data points or segments
  • In line charts to differentiate between multiple lines or series

Different types of legends in Excel

Legends in Excel can be found in various forms depending on the type of chart or graph being used.

  • Chart legends: These are used to explain the colors or patterns used in the chart to represent different data series or categories.
  • Graph legends: These are used to provide labels for different data points or segments in a graph, such as in a pie chart.

How to create legends in Excel

Legends in Excel charts provide valuable information about the data being presented. They help identify different series or categories in the chart, making it easier for the audience to understand the data.

Step-by-step guide to creating legends in Excel charts

To create a legend in Excel, follow these simple steps:

  • Select the chart you want to add a legend to.
  • Click on the "Chart Elements" button (the plus icon) that appears next to the chart.
  • Check the box next to "Legend" to add a legend to the chart.

This will add a default legend to your chart, which you can customize further.

Using the "add legend" feature in Excel

Excel's "add legend" feature makes it easy to include a legend in your chart. By simply checking a box, you can add a legend to your chart and make your data easier to understand for your audience.

Customizing legends in Excel

Once you have added a legend to your chart, you can customize it to better suit your needs. You can change the position, format, and font of the legend to make it more visually appealing and easier to read.

Additionally, you can also change the text of the legend to provide more descriptive information about the data being presented in the chart.

Best practices for using legends in Excel

Legends in Excel are a crucial component of data visualization, allowing viewers to easily interpret the information displayed on the charts and graphs. To ensure that legends serve their purpose effectively, it is important to follow certain best practices when using them in Excel.

Keeping legends clear and concise

  • Use descriptive labels: When creating a legend, use clear and descriptive labels that accurately represent the data being depicted in the chart or graph. Avoid using vague or ambiguous terms that may confuse the viewers.
  • Limit the number of items: To prevent overcrowding and clutter, it is recommended to limit the number of items in the legend. Only include the most relevant and significant data categories to maintain clarity.
  • Position the legend appropriately: Place the legend in a location that doesn't obstruct the view of the chart or graph, while still being easily accessible for reference.

Using legends to enhance data visualization

  • Color coordination: Utilize consistent and easily distinguishable colors in the legend to correspond with the data elements in the chart or graph, enhancing the visual impact and aiding in interpretation.
  • Utilize symbols or shapes: In addition to colors, incorporate symbols or shapes in the legend to further differentiate between data categories, particularly for viewers who may have color vision deficiencies.
  • Include explanatory information: Provide supplementary information in the legend to offer context or clarify any complex or unfamiliar terms used in the chart or graph.

Avoiding common mistakes when using legends in Excel

  • Using misleading labels: Avoid using labels that could potentially mislead the viewer or misrepresent the data, as this can result in misinterpretation and incorrect analysis.
  • Overcomplicating the legend: Refrain from adding unnecessary elements or excessive details to the legend, as this may overwhelm the viewer and detract from the main purpose of the chart or graph.
  • Forgetting to update the legend: When making changes to the data or the chart, remember to update the legend accordingly to maintain its accuracy and relevance.

Tips for Interpreting Legends in Excel

Legends in Excel play a crucial role in helping users interpret and understand the data presented in the spreadsheet. Here are some tips for effectively interpreting legends in Excel:

Understanding the Relationship Between Data and Legends

  • Pay attention to the data labels: The legends in Excel are directly related to the data labels in the charts. It is important to understand the connection between the data labels and the corresponding items in the legend. This will help in accurately interpreting the data presented in the chart.
  • Refer to the legend for context: When analyzing a chart, refer to the legend to understand what each color or symbol represents. The legend provides valuable context for interpreting the data categories in the chart.

Using Legends to Identify Data Categories

  • Look for patterns: Use the legend to identify different data categories or groups. By understanding the categories represented in the legend, you can easily identify and interpret the corresponding data points in the chart.
  • Use the legend as a reference: When analyzing the chart, refer to the legend to identify and understand the different data categories. This will help in making sense of the data presented in the chart.

Making Use of Color and Formatting in Legends

  • Pay attention to color coding: Legends often use different colors to represent distinct data categories. Pay attention to the color coding in the legend and apply it to the corresponding data points in the chart for accurate interpretation.
  • Utilize formatting cues: Legends may also use formatting cues such as symbols or patterns to represent data categories. Take note of these formatting cues and use them to interpret the data presented in the chart.

Common issues with legends in Excel

Legends in Excel are a vital component of data visualization, but they can sometimes present challenges. Here are some common issues that users may encounter:

A. Legends not displaying correctly

One of the most common problems with legends in Excel is when they do not display correctly. This may include missing or incorrect legend items, or legends that are not properly aligned with the data they represent.

B. Troubleshooting problems with legends in Excel

When legends are not displaying correctly, it can be frustrating and confusing for users. Some common troubleshooting steps may include checking the data source for errors, ensuring that the legend is properly linked to the data series, and verifying that the legend settings are correct.

C. Strategies for fixing issues with legends in Excel

Fortunately, there are several strategies that users can employ to fix issues with legends in Excel:

  • Check data source: Verify that the data source for the legend is accurate and up to date.
  • Adjust legend settings: Make sure that the legend settings are correctly configured, including the position, font size, and style.
  • Link legend to data series: Ensure that the legend is properly linked to the data series it represents.
  • Update software: If all else fails, consider updating Excel to the latest version to see if that resolves the issue.


Understanding legends in Excel is crucial for accurately interpreting data and creating visually appealing charts. It allows users to easily identify and distinguish between different data series, making it easier to understand the information presented. I encourage readers to practice creating and interpreting legends in Excel to enhance their data visualization skills. Mastering legends in Excel is a valuable skill that can greatly improve the clarity and effectiveness of your data presentations.

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