What Is a Broken Line Graph?

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According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a broken line graph is “a graph that shows information as dots that are connected by straight lines.” These graphs do not necessarily form an overall straight line. Each data point is often a vertex where the line makes a change in direction.

Broken line graphs are one way to show information. Users of these graphs often choose this method of representing changes in data over time, such as changes in stock market prices throughout a day or changes in daily temperatures. The lines allow users to interpolate unknown data values between two dots representing known values.

In such graphs, convention dictates one independent variable horizontally on the x-axis and the dependant variable vertically on the y-axis. Broken line graphs are also useful in presenting data collected over time when a third variable exists. An example includes a broken line graph showing monthly temperature averages for two different locations. The preparer uses different colors for the lines to represent each city, allowing graph users to easily compare trends that exist. While line graphs are simple to construct using graph paper and a ruler, a spreadsheet such as Excel allows users to construct professional-looking representations of data they collect.