Pie charts should be avoided when there are many categories, or when categories do not total 100%. The human eye has trouble comparing the relative size of slices in a pie chart, so pie charts should also be avoided when slices are similar, unless similarity is the point.


Simple, compact presentation Can be read “at a glance” with limited categories Excel can calculate % values automatically


Difficult to compare relative size of slices Become cluttered and dense as categories are added Limited to part-to-whole data Poor at showing change over time


Limit categories Avoid all 3d variants

See also: Dataviz expert Ann Emery’s Pie Chart Guidelines.   Author

Dave Bruns

Hi - I’m Dave Bruns, and I run Exceljet with my wife, Lisa. Our goal is to help you work faster in Excel. We create short videos, and clear examples of formulas, functions, pivot tables, conditional formatting, and charts.   

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