I was at a conference earlier this fall and someone asked me whether it’s possible to create an Excel chart where only the first (top) y-axis label has a percentage sign format while the others were just number labels. In other words, instead of adding percentage signs to every y-axis label or putting the phrase “Percentages” in the title or sub-title, she wanted a single percentage sign. Something like this:

Interesting challenge, I thought. You can’t select single axis labels in Excel, so you’ve got to go about it a different way. But don’t give up hope! There is a way! And it’s not too difficult, though it’s a little time consuming. All we’re going to do is combine the column chart with four separate scatterplot series and use the names of those scatterplot series to label the y-axis. You may think there are a lot of steps to this task, but they are all pretty minor and once you’re done you’ll be ready to combine charts and use scatterplots for a lot of different tasks.

Here we go. Create your basic column chart and you’ll get your standard y-axis labels. However many gridlines you are going to use (if you use them!) will directly correspond to how many separate scatterplots you are going to need. For this example, I’ll use four increments, and thus four separate scatterplots. We will attach them to the secondary x- and y-axes and add a left-side data label. That’s it. Here’s my data:

Create your column chart and then add the first scatterplot series by selecting data and adding this series. It’s important you refer to cell D3 in the name field.

When you click OK, you’ll see that you have a new column. There are now a bunch of little steps:

1. Select that column and change it to a scatterplot.

2. Select the point, right-click to Format Data Series and plot the series on the Secondary Axis.

3. Show the Secondary Horizontal axis by going to the Axes menu under the Chart Layout button in the ribbon. (Notice how the point moves over when you do so.)

4. Right-click in your chart and choose Select Data. You now need to add the x-values to the scatterplot series (remember, we named it “100%”). Once you do that, you’ll see that red square move to the top-left corner of your chart.

5. Change the maximum value on your secondary y-axis to 100 by selecting and formatting the axis.

6. Let’s do a few things now: Turn off the secondary x- and y-axes by selecting each axis, formatting each, and turn off the labels, tick marks, and lines. Don’t just delete the axes! That will undo your work.

7. See how that point is up there? Now, select that point and add a data label. Once you’ve added it, format it and instead of using the Y value as the label, use the Series Name, and move it to the left side of the point.

8. Let’s now add our other four scatterplot series. (This is actually the long way to do this. For this specific chart, you don’t need to add four separate series; see the Note at the bottom of the post.)

9. Now, we can do some styling. Set the increments of the y-axis to 25….

10. Add data labels to each point and move them to the left (you won’t need to change the format from Y value to Series Name as we did before because the value is the series name)…..

11. Set the Marker Style to No Marker for each series….

12. And now set the y-axis labels to missing and resize your y-axis a bit to fit the entire 100% label.

13. Move the y-axis around and style the chart as you like.

Note: You don’t necessarily need all 5 separate scatterplots. Because you can use the y-axis value as the data labels for the 0, 25, 50, and 75 points, you can have one scatterplot point for the ‘100%’ label and then another single series for those points.

You can extend this methodology to have other labels on the y-axis and then move the label wherever you’d like.

I hope you found this tutorial useful and please let me know if you have any questions.