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Plain Figures

Examples and Tips

Example 1: PricewaterhouseCoopers

When not to use a bar chart

We found this bar chart on page 27 of PwC's Family Business Survey 2007/08 [PDF 1.1Mb]

Figure 17 from PricewaterhouseCoopers Family Business Survey 2007/08

What's wrong?

PwC has fallen into the trap of using a graph to present reference material. Reference data - like survey results - is more accurately and conveniently read from a simple table, rather than a graph. Putting such data on a graph merely creates a puzzle for the reader to work out.

Our Solution

Set the data out in a simple table, as in Table 1. This allows the reader to quickly compare data both across rows and down columns.

Table 1 showing the Plain Figures treatment

Source: PwC's Family Business Survey 2007/08, page 27

To make the page more interesting, take a selection of the data and create a single graph, telling an explicit, eye-catching story, as in Graph 1 below.

Graph 1 North American family values. A much higher percentage of North American companies expect the business to stay in the family
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