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Describing Bar Charts and Column Charts (1)

Bar charts and column charts are similar: only their orientations differ. A bar chart is orientated horizontally, whereas a column chart is arranged vertically. Sometimes "bar chart" refers to both forms.

These types of charts are usually used for comparison purposes (unlike line charts, which describe change).

Observe the following chart :

 

Simple Graph

It shows the populations of various European countries in the year 2007. The populations are only for one year, 2007, and so we cannot make any comments about change in population: we can only compare one county with another.

When you write about a bar or column chart it is important to look first at the Chart Title. This tells you what information the chart displays and you can use this information in your description.

Then look at the X and Y axes. The titles of these axes sometimes give you information you can use in your description. It is important also to look at the UNITS. On the Y-axis in this chart the units are millions. The population of Belgium in 2007 was not 10, but 10 million people.

Bar and column charts show similarities and differences. When describing these charts you need to make comparisons.

You also need to group together any columns which have broad similarities.

To write a short description of this graph ask yourself (and answer!) the following questions:

  1. What exactly does the chart show? (Use the chart title to help you answer this question)
  2. What are the axes and what are the units?
  3. What similarities are there?
  4. Is it possible to put some of the columns into one or more groups?
  5. What differences are there?

Answering these questions will help you to write a short description of this simple column chart.

Here is an example:

This chart shows the populations of some European countries in 2007. The country with the largest population is Germany, with over 80 million people whereas Estonia has the smallest population, at little more than a million. Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia and Ireland all have populations or ten million or less, while Greece has a population of about eleven million. Apart from Germany, the largest countries are Spain, France and Italy with populations ranging from about forty-four to sixty-three million. Together, the four largest countries account for over eighty per cent of the population of the countries shown.

Vocabulary

To make comparisons, you need to know the comparatives and superlatives of common adjectives. Here are some examples:

Adjective
Comparative
Superlative
bad
worse
worst
big
bigger
biggest
expensive
more expensive
most expensive
good
better
best
great
greater
greatest
high
higher
highest
large
larger
largest
little
less
least
long
longer
longest
low
lower
lowest
many
more
most
much
more
most
new
newer
newest
old
older
oldest
poor
poorer
poorest
rich
richer
richest
short
shorter
shortest
small
small
smallest
strong
stronger
strongest
weak
weaker
weakest

To signal comparison and contrast within a sentence you can use the following conjunctions:

as ....... as, not as ......... as, not so ........ as, whereas, but, while, although

To signal comparison and contrast between sentences you can use the following words and phrases:

However, By contrast, On the other hand, In comparison

EssayBuilder gives a more extensive list of these words and phrases with examples of their use.

 

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