How to Plot a Secondary Axis on Microsoft Excel

by Stephanie Ellen

Microsoft Excel isn't just for organizing and maintaining spreadsheets; Excel contains a powerful graphing component that can make dozens of different dynamic graphs that update automatically when your spreadsheet updates. If you have more than one data type in a graph (for example, volume and weight), you may want to plot the different data types on their own axes. Excel 2007 makes this process possible by allowing you to add a secondary axis to your chart.

Secondary Vertical Axis

Step 1

Open the spreadsheet in Excel that contains the chart to which you want to add a secondary axis. Click the "Microsoft Office" button, then click "Open" and then locate the file on your computer. Click "Open" to open the file. Your existing chart should pop up on the screen when you open the spreadsheet. Depending on the type of graph you created, it could be a bar chart, line graph or other graph type.

Step 2

Click the data series in the chart you want to plot on a secondary axis.

Step 3

Click the "Format" tab, then click "Format Selection" in the "Current Selection" group.

Click the "Series Options" tab, then click "Secondary Axis" below "Plot Series On." The secondary axis will be display in the chart.

Secondary Horizontal Axis

Step 1

Click anywhere on the chart to display Chart Tools.

Step 2

Click the "Layout" tab, then click on "Axes" from the "Axes" group.

Click "Secondary Horizontal Axis," then click the type of display you want. For example, if you want an unlabeled axis, click "Show Axis Without Labeling."


  • You cannot make a secondary horizontal axis unless you have made a secondary vertical axis first.


  • Distinguish the secondary axis from the primary axis by changing the chart type for a single data series. For example, display the first series as a line chart and the second series as a bar graph.


About the Author

Stephanie Ellen teaches mathematics and statistics at the university and college level. She coauthored a statistics textbook published by Houghton-Mifflin. She has been writing professionally since 2008. Ellen holds a Bachelor of Science in health science from State University New York, a master's degree in math education from Jacksonville University and a Master of Arts in creative writing from National University.

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