Book Excerpt

Keep your graphs and charts honest by avoiding these common data visualization pitfalls.

Did Reuters and Fox News intend to mislead their audiences by these terrible charts?

Amy Balliett
Nov 4 · 5 min read
An 18th century bar graph.
An 18th century bar graph.
One of the earliest known bar graphs, from The Commercial and Political Atlas.

Case in Point: Don’t Skip the Scale

During the heated debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, a Fox News broadcast displayed a data visualization suggesting that the demand for health care under the ACA was lower than expected, with the implication that the ACA was not successful. The image below shows a screenshot from that broadcast.

A misleading bar graph where the x-axis doesn’t begin at zero.
A misleading bar graph where the x-axis doesn’t begin at zero.
Screenshot by the author.
Corrected bar graph
Corrected bar graph
Image by the author.

Adhere to the Common Language of Data Viz

When it comes to data visualization, we share a common visual language that ensures fluency in communication and understanding. Pie charts always add up to 100 percent.

A misleading graph.
A misleading graph.
Screen capture by the author.
Improved graph where the y-axis now increases from bottom to top as expected.
Improved graph where the y-axis now increases from bottom to top as expected.
Graph by the author.
Book cover.
Book cover.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most…

Amy Balliett

Written by

CEO & Founder of Killer Visual Strategies, LinkedIn Learning Instructor, Public Speaker, Higher Ed Guest Lecturer, Business Mentor, and Author

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Amy Balliett

Written by

CEO & Founder of Killer Visual Strategies, LinkedIn Learning Instructor, Public Speaker, Higher Ed Guest Lecturer, Business Mentor, and Author

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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