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How to add Axis Labels in Excel in 2 Easy Ways

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  • Excel

Making charts in Excel is a great way to visualise our data in a way that is easy to understand. That being said sometimes there is a bit of work that needs to be done to really make it as useful as possible.

One of these areas is axis labels as they are not included in a chart by default. In this simple guide we will run through how to add axis labels in Excel. We will cover:

  • How to add Axis Labels
  • How to name Axis Labels

Let’s get started using a nice easy dataset.

Adding Axis Labels to a chart

Let’s say we have a really basic bar chart that we have just made, showcasing yearly revenue for a company. By simply creating a bar chart using the existing data, the initial output will look like the below:

Axis labels in Excel

This definitely does the job in terms of clearly showcasing which were the highest and lowest years, and depending on your purpose this may be all you need. However to make it look a bit more professional let’s add some Axis Labels.

Even though the chart itself is pretty self explanatory – we are going to call the label along the X axis ‘Year’, and the label along the Y axis ‘Revenue’

There are two different ways we can add in the axis label in Excel.

First, after selecting the chart itself, head up to the Chart Design ribbon, and then under Add Chart Element, select Axis Titles. From here you can add the Primary Horizonal which is the X axis, and Primary Vertical which is the Y axis

Axis labels in Excel

If you select both of these the output will be as follows:

Axis labels in Excel

The second, and easier way, is in the little chart controls to the right of the chart itself.

All you need to do here is click anywhere on the chart, and press the green + sign in the top right hand side, and then simply tick Axis Titles. This will automatically add in both the X and Y axis labels at the same time.

Axis labels in Excel

Now that we have the axis labels set up, let’s give them a name.

Giving our Axis Labels a name

While it is great that we have the labels set up, the phrase ‘Axis Title’ isn’t overly helpful in itself, so lets give these the more descriptive labels of Year and Revenue that we discussed earlier.

There are two different methods for labelling our new axis titles. The first is to simply click into the title itself and manually type in a word:

Axis labels in Excel

This is easy enough, and depending on what we actually want to call them can be useful at letting us be descriptive.

The second approach is to actually use a formula. After we click into the label we can head up to the formula bar and simply set up a formula referencing the cell, in this case we can reference the cell for the data columns header by pressing = and clicking into the cell, which gives us =Sheet1!$B$2

As the chart element is separate to the data in the sheet itself it specifies the ‘Sheet1’ in this case as in our example workbook that is the name of the sheet we are working with. This looks as follows:

Axis labels in Excel

This method can be handy when working with lots of data and charts as it means if we were to rename a column header, it automatically gets renamed inside the axis label on the chart as well!

From here we now have a far more informative bar chart, and can work to make other tweaks such as a new header, colour formatting, a legend (which you can read about here), and so on.

This sums up our basic guide on how to add axis labels to a chart in Excel. For more handy guides on working with Excel, be sure to check out our Excel Tips page.