Certain types of charts are more useful for presenting a given data set than others. For example, data that presents percentages in different groups (such as "satisfied, not satisfied, unsure") are often displayed in a pie chart, but are more easily understood when presented in a horizontal bar chart . On the other hand, data that represents numbers that change over a period of time (such as "annual revenue from 1990 to 2000") might be best shown as a line chart.
Typically a chart is graphical, containing very little text, since humans are generally able to infer meaning from pictures quicker than from text.
One of the more important uses of text in a graph is in the title. A graph's title usually appears above the main graphic and provides a succinct description of what the data in the graph refers to.
Dimensions in the data are often displayed on axes. If a horizontal and a vertical axis are used, they are usually referred to as the x-axis and y-axis respectively. Each axis will have a scale, denoted by periodic graduations and usually accompanied by numerical or categorical indications. Each axis will typically also have a label displayed outside or beside it, briefly describing the dimension represented. If the scale is numerical, the label will often be suffixed with the unit of that scale in parentheses. For example, "Distance travelled (m)" is a typical x-axis label.
Within the graph a grid of lines may appear to aid in the visual alignment of data. The grid can be enhanced by visually emphasising the lines at regular or significant graduations. The emphasised lines are then called major grid lines and the rest of the grid lines are minor grid lines.
The data of a chart can appear in all manner of formats, with or without individual labels. It may appear as dots or shapes, connected or unconnected, and in any combination of colors and patterns. Inferences or points of interest can be overlayed directly on the graph to further aid information extraction.
When the data appearing in a chart contains multiple variables, the chart may include a legend. A legend contains a list of the variables appearing in the chart and an example of their appearance. This information allows the data from each variable to be identified in the chart.
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