A Slope Graph has a lot in common with a Line Graph as it plots change between points. But, unlike a Line Graph, a Slope Graph plots the change between two points only.
Increases and decreases between the two points can be seen easily. In fact, you can see how one category increases as others decrease, or if one changes at a faster rate than the others.
This is a key feature of the Slope Graph, and they show this better than any other type of chart.
So, the Slope Graph is a useful option when you want to focus on the start and end points of a data set and the difference between them.
A Slope Chart can also be used to compare two categories of data: Something you would normally use a Column or Bar Chart for. And sometimes, plotting your data in this way can make the story just that little bit clearer.
Unfortunately, Microsoft Excel doesn’t have a default option for creating Slope Charts. But, with a little formatting trickery, you can create this useful and versatile chart from a Line Graph.
Note: This tutorial applies to Microsoft Excel 2016. But you should be able to take the ideas shown here and get similar results in earlier versions of the software (where the feature described is available).
Creating a Slope Graph
Select the range of cells that you want to chart and insert a Line Graph. (Here I am using a plain line style for the graph. You can select a style with data marker dots if you prefer.)
This is not right, as the series for each country, UK and US, are shown on the x-axis. Also, the Year has been included as a series. This sometimes happens when creating line charts, but there is an easy fix for both issues.
On the Ribbon Chart Tools Design tab, click the Switch Row/Column button to correct the first problem.
Then on the Chart Tools Design tab, click Select Data.
Remove the Year entry from the Legend Entries section of the Select Data Source dialog box to fix the second problem.
And, if your Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels are wrong (here mine show 1 & 2, not 1997 & 2015), you can correct these by clicking the Edit button in the Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels section and entering the correct range in the Axis Labels dialog that will pop up.
Click Close to return to the Select Data source dialog.
Close the Select Data Source dialog and right click on the x-axis and select Format Axis …
To make your chart look more like a Slope Graph, in the Format Axis panel, which has now opened, look for the Axis Position section and select the On Tick Marks option.
Now, we are getting there, but we need to make a few more formatting adjustments.
Slope Graphs are normally tall and narrow, unlike Line Graphs, which tend to be wider than they are tall. So squash the whole graph horizontally (or stretch it vertically).
Also, we don’t need the y-axis, or the y-axis gridlines. So delete them.
And we still need a bit more room on either side of the chart for our data labels.
So, click inside the plot area and drag both sides in a little. (Maybe a bit more for the left side as you will be including the name of each series there as well as the value.)
Select one of the lines.
If you want/need to change the colour of the line, in the Format Data Series panel, select the Fill & Line icon and change the colour or styling of the line. (If the Format Data Series is not open, right click on the line and select Format Data Series from the menu.)
Next, right click the line and select Add Data Labels from the menu.
Click on the new labels and change the colour to match that of the line. (Use the Font Color control on the Ribbon Home tab.)
This should give you something like the graph shown here.
Now you need to add the series (country) names to identify the individual lines on the graph.
To do this click the left-hand label a second time. This should select that single label. (You only need to add the names to the label on the left.)
If the Format Data Labels panel is not already open, right click the label and select Format Data Labels.
In the Format Data Labels panel, under Label Options, select the Series Name check box, and uncheck Show Leader Lines.
And then, move the label so that it sits neatly alongside the line it is related to. To do this, in the Label Position section of the Format Data Label panel, select Left.
(If you have many lines and the labels overlap, you can click on a label, then drag it up or down a little to clear the overlap.)
Now repeat the line and data label formatting steps, as required, for all the other lines in the graph.
Finally, delete the legend, add a title, and tweak the chart/plot area size if necessary, and you are done.
Now you have the means to make use of the Slope Graph.
Try it out the next time you need to show the change between two points in time or compare two sets of data.
See if it helps to makes your message clearer.