Displaying Trendlines in Charts

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated November 3, 2014

Applies to: Microsoft Excel 2010 and 2013 (Windows)

This article is the second in a series of simple ways to show trends in your Excel data.

Related articles: Simple Strategies to Show Trends in Excel (Part 1) and (Part 3)

In Microsoft Excel, you have the ability to add one or more trendlines to a chart and to project future results. Trendlines are available in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2013.

Create a chart

The first thing you will need to do is enter enough data in a worksheet with consistent intervals (i.e. weekly, monthly or yearly) to display a trend.

To create a chart:

  1. Select the data you wish to chart.
  2. Click the Insert tab in the Ribbon.
  3. In the Charts group, click the Chart type you would like to create and choose a chart type from the drop-down list. An embedded chart will be added to the sheet.
  4. Click the chart. Note the Chart Tools tabs that now appear in the Ribbon. Use the tabs to format the chart or change the chart type.
  5. If there is only one data series, you can remove the legend by clicking its edge and pressing Delete.

Create an Excel chart from data.

Add a trendline

To add a trendline:

  1. Click the chart.
  2. Select the data series where you wish to display a trendline (usually this involves clicking a column to select the column series or on a line to select a line series).
  3. Click the Chart Tools Layout tab.
  4. In the Analysis group, click Trendline. A drop-down menu appears.
  5. Choose the desired type of trendline or click More Trendline Options for other choices, make a choice and click Close. A trendline appears.

Create a trendline in Excel using the Trendline button on the Ribbon.

Linear trendlilne on a column chart.

Types of trendlines

There are a several different types of trendlines:

  • Use a linear trendline for simple data. If your data works best with a straight line, use a linear trendline which represents a steady rate of increase or decrease.
  • Use a logarithmic trendline for data that starts with a sharp change and levels out.
  • Use a moving average trendline for rapidly fluctuating data such as stock prices. This type of trendline smooths out the fluctuations to show the overall trend.
  • Use a polynomial trendline for gradually fluctuating data. Whereas a moving average trendline suppresses individual fluctuations, a polynomial trendline makes them stand out.
  • Use a power trendline when working with measurements that increase at specific rates (such as truck accelerations) and all data values are greater than zero.
  • Use an exponential trendline for data that rises or falls at rates that increase constantly.

Formatting trendlines

To format a trendline:

  1. Click the trendline.
  2. Right-click it and choose Format Trendline.
  3. Choose the desired options.
  4. Click Close.

Format Trendline dialog box.

Displaying the R-squared value

You can display the R-squared value which indicates how closely your trendline follows your data. The closer the value is to 1, the closer it follows your data. Select the R-squared value check box in the Format Trendline dialog box.

You can move the R-squared value to another location on the chart by clicking on it to display sizing handles. Point to one of the handles and drag with the left mouse button to a new location.

Projecting a trend

You can project a trend forward, backward or both.

To add a forward projection to a trendline:

  1. Click the trendline.
  2. Right-click and choose Format Trendline.
  3. Enter a number in the Forward field of the Forecast section to project a trend forward.
  4. Click Close.

Format Trendlines dialog box with projected number entered.

Chart with trendline with forward projection.

Trendlines are simple to add to your charts to show trends in Excel.

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