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Introduction to Line Graphs

A line graph shows changes in values—most often, over time. Line graphs are most useful in showing trends such as an increase in the national savings rate or a decrease in the cost of living.

A line graph is drawn with one or more trend lines. The line displays data as points connected by line segments across the graph. Scales along both the horizontal and vertical axes of the graph identify values. Usually a line graph displays a change over time from left to right.

When you read a line graph, review the following features:

  • Title: The title tells you what the graph is about.
  • Axis labels: The labels on the vertical and horizontal axes tell you what the data points mean.
  • Data Points: Each point on a line graph represents a single value, defined by its position on each axis.
  • Trend: The line shows you the trend in the data—the direction and/or rapidness of change over time. Carefully read the axis labels to interpret the meaning of a trend.