There is one common phenomenon in graphs that I recommend actively avoiding: diagonal axis labels. They are often observed on the x-axes of graphs, where many tools automatically rotate text when the labels become too long to fit horizontally. While this might seem like a kind favor, there are usually better options. Beyond looking messy, diagonally rotated text is slower to read. In this short post, I’ll highlight two common scenarios that lead to diagonal x-axis labels—long category names on bar charts and long date labels on line graphs—and a couple ideas to try instead.
Diagonal labels aren’t the worst on printed visuals (as you can tilt the paper to read those labels clearly), but they’re not great. When combined with screens—especially screens which change their rotation as you tilt them, like on phones—that leads to a lot of unnecessary dissatisfaction.