Two level axis in Excel chart not showing

A two level axis in Excel charts allows you to show more information on the chart. For example if you want to clearly show items that are actuals versus the items that are budgets or forecasts you may want to set it up to look like this. Note that the first level shows the month name and the second level shows where the actuals and the forecasts start.

Two level axis in Excel chart not showing

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2nd Level not showing all labels

But what happens if the two level axis is not showing some of the titles e.g. below we don’t see the word Forecast below the May data?

Two level axis in Excel chart not showing

The problem here is how Excel is showing the first level axis labels. Note the difference between the two charts. The one lists every month name, whereas the second one lists only every second name. This could be because you have explicitly chosen this option, or Excel may automatically do it if it decides that there is not enough space to show every label. The reason the second level is not shown is that it is meant to appear in a month that doesn’t have the first level showing.

In order to always see the second level, you need to tell Excel to always show all the items in the first level. You can easily do this by:

  • Right clicking on the horizontal access and choosing Format Axis
  • Choose the Axis options (little column chart symbol)
  • Click on the Labels dropdown
  • Change the ‘Specify Interval Unit’ to 1
  • If you want you can make it look neater by ticking the Multi Level Category Labels
Two level axis in Excel chart not showing

You will see now that the first level shows all the months and the second level will always show the labels.

If you are struggling to fit in your labels, you may want to change their orientation.

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