How to Add Error Bars in Excel

Get more accurate estimates and measurements

Illustration of a spreadsheet on a PC monitor.

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Whether you’re a statistician or need to track variables in your monthly sales, Error Bars in Excel can provide a great visual on just how accurate your numbers or measurements are compared to the actual value.

With Excel’s built-in measurements using percentages, deviations, and more, you should be able to get a more accurate picture of your data. Below is how to use Excel’s Error Bars to get you a more accurate idea of your measurements.

Instructions in this article apply to Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, and Office 365.

How to Add Error Bars in Excel

Adding Error Bars to your Excel chart is a relatively simple process. Best of all, if you need to remove it, simply reverse the instructions.

  1. Select the chart within your Excel spreadsheet.

  2. Select Chart Elements, represented by a green plus (+) sign next to the top right of the chart.

    The Chart Elements button is highlighted in Excel.
  3. Select Error Bars. You can also select the arrow next to Error Bars, then select Standard Error, Percentage, Standard Deviation, or More Options.

    Selecting the Error Bars option in Excel.

    Standard Error, Percentage, and Standard Deviation are predefined in Excel.

  4. For more customized settings, select More Options.

    Selecting More Options in the Error Bars settings in Excel.
  5. The Add Error Bars dialog will open up. Choose which Series to customize, then select OK.

    Selecting the Series to adjust in Excel.
  6. A side window will open within Excel. Here you can adjust the Direction, End Style, and the Error Amount of the Error Bar using a Fixed value, Percentage, Standard deviation, Standard error, or create a Custom value.

    The Format Error Bars side panel in Excel.

Using Error Bars' More Options

If you choose to customize your error bars in your chart, as explained above, there is the More Options setting. More Options gives you the ability to make several customizations, including some colorization of different aspects of the Error Bars.

  1. After selecting Error Bars > More Options, you’ll be prompted to select which series to add Error Bars to. Select the Series, then select OK.

    Selecting the Series to adjust in Excel.
  2. The Format Error Bars side window will open. Depending on what type of chart you have, the options will change slightly. In this example, a horizontal bar chart was chosen.

    The Format Error Bars side panel in Excel.

    Scatter charts can display both horizontal and vertical error bars. To get rid of them, select them, then press the Delete key.

  3. The Horizontal Error Bar section contains 2 different settings. Under Direction, you have a few options for the Error Bar:

    • Both: Error Bar goes in both directions
    • Minus: Error Bar goes to the right of the line
    • Plus: Error Bar goes to the left of the line
    Horizontal Error Bar Direction settings in Excel.
  4. The End Style gives you the option to have a Cap or No Cap on the end of your Error Bar.

    The End Style section of the Format Error Bars in Excel.
  5. The last section sets the Error Amount. Here you can set a customized Fixed value, Percentage, or Standard Deviation. You can also select Standard Error or Custom to add further customization to the Error Amount.

    The Error Amount under the Format Error Bars section in Excel.
  6. If you choose Custom, select Specify Value.

    Selecting Custom in the Error Amount in Excel.
  7. From here, you can adjust the Positive and Negative Error Value. Once set, select OK.

    The Custom Error Bars dialog in Excel.
  8. You can repeat this process for each series by selecting the dropdown menu next to Error Bar Options.

    Other options in the Error Bar dropdown menu in Excel.