Error bars are graphical representations of data variability in charts. You can add error bars into your Excel charts to provide a more comprehensive view of the data set. An error bar is usually a horizontal and/or vertical line drawn between lowest and highest error values. In this guide, we’re going to show you how to add error bars in Excel.

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Error bars

Excel allows you to display error bars as a standard error, percentage, fixed value, or standard deviation. You can set a range with calculations as well.

You can add error bars into 2-D bar, column, line, area, XY (scatter), and bubble charts. While 2-D bar, column, line, and area charts displays error bars in single direction, XY and bubble charts can display them in both directions.

Tip: You can always remove either horizontal or vertical error bar and left the one in XY and bubble charts.

How to add error bars in Excel 01

How to add error bars in Excel

If you are using Excel 2013 or a newer version - including Microsoft 365 - all you need is to use the Chart Elements (plus button) next to the chart.

  1. Click on the chart.
  2. Click the Chart Elements button to the top-right of the chart.
  3. Put a check to Error Bars to add error bars for standard error. To see the other options, click the right arrow.
  4. Click on the option you want to use.

Standard Error: Also known as standard error of the mean (SEM). It shows the approximate standard deviation of a statistical sample population.
Percentage: Determines an error range for each value based on a preset percentage value. The default value is 5% but you can change the number.
Standard Deviation: A measure that is used to quantify the amount of variation or dispersion a set of data has, relative to its mean.
More Options: This option adds fixed value error bars and opens the right pane for error bar options for customization.

Excel 2010 and previous version users can find the Error Bars options in Layout tab of the corresponding chart. To see the Layout tab in the Ribbon, click on the chart.

Custom error bars

To show your own values as error bars, you need to create custom error bars. Once the right pane is open for the error bars, check the Custom option from the Error Amount section. This option will enable the Specify Value button.

Clicking the button will display Custom Error Bars dialog with two inputs. You can enter either static values into this positive and negative fields or cell ranges which contains numbers.

Make sure that the selected range can fit inside the chart data. Any missing cells or values will hide the error bars for the corresponding data. For example, the 2nd bar doesn’t have an error bar due to the missing value in cell D4. You can now add error bars in Excel!