How to Add Error Bars in Google Sheets: A Step-by-Step Guide

Published: November 20, 2023 - 4 min read

Julian Alvarado

Understanding the uncertainty in your data is critical for precise data analysis. Google Sheets simplifies this process by providing straightforward tools to add error bars to your charts. 

In this guide, you’ll learn how to insert error bars to represent data variability and customize them to convey a more accurate picture of your data’s reliability. 

Understanding Error Bars

Error bars are graphical representations of the variability of data and are used to indicate the error or uncertainties of reported measurements. They are a useful tool for understanding the accuracy and precision of data points in a chart.

Purpose of Error Bars

The main purpose of error bars is to show the amount of uncertainty or variability in the data. 

They are used to display the range of values that the data could have taken, given the measurement error. Error bars can also be used to compare different sets of data and to determine whether the differences between them are statistically significant.

Types of Error Bars

Several types of error bars can be added to a chart in Google Sheets.

Standard Error Bars

Standard error bars are the most commonly used type of error bars. They are based on the standard deviation of the data and show the amount of variability in the data around the mean.

Confidence Interval Bars

Confidence interval bars are similar to standard error bars, but they are based on the confidence interval of the data. They show the range of values that the data could have taken, given the measurement error and the sample size.

Standard Deviation Bars

Standard deviation bars show the amount of variability in the data around the mean, similar to standard error bars. However, they are based on the actual standard deviation of the data rather than an estimate of it.

Custom Error Bars

Custom error bars allow users to specify their own values for the error bars, rather than using the built-in options. This can be useful for displaying specific types of data or for creating custom charts.

Adding Error Bars in Google Sheets

Google Sheets is a powerful tool for data analysis and visualization. One of the key features of Google Sheets is the ability to add error bars to charts. Error bars can help to show the variability of data and provide context for the results.

Preparation of Data

Before adding error bars to a chart in Google Sheets, it is important to ensure that the data is properly formatted. The data should be organized in columns or rows, with each column or row representing a different variable. 

In the example below, a company is tracking the average number of units sold over a week. The error bars could represent the standard deviation, indicating the variability in units sold each day.

Google Sheets spreadsheet with a table showing days of the week and corresponding 'Units Sold' data.

Inserting Chart

To add error bars to a chart in Google Sheets, first select the data that you want to use for the chart. 

Google Sheets table with 'Day' and 'Units Sold' columns highlighted.

Then, click on the “Insert” menu and select “Chart.” 

inserting a chart in google sheets

This will bring up the chart editor, where you can select the type of chart that you want to create.

spreadsheet ai
Free AI-Powered Tools Right Within Your Spreadsheet

Supercharge your spreadsheets with GPT-powered AI tools for building formulas, charts, pivots, SQL and more. Simple prompts for automatic generation.

 Bar chart in Google Sheets showing 'Units Sold vs. Day' with bars for each day of the week.

Add Error Bars with Custom Values 

Once you have created your chart, you can customize the error bars to show the variability of your data. 

To do this, click on the chart to select it, then click on the “Customize” tab in the chart editor. 

click on the chart to select it, then click on the "Customize" tab in the chart editor. 

Scroll down to “Series” and select it.

Google Sheets Chart Editor interface showing 'Series' options for customizing a chart

Look for “Error bars” and click the box.

Detailed view of the 'Error bars' option in the Google Sheets Chart Editor under the 'Customize' tab.

Select “Standard Deviation” from the drop-down under “Type.”

Close-up of Google Sheets Chart Editor with 'Error bars' drop-down menu showing types of error bars available

Use the data from the “Standard Deviation” column to display error bars.

Bar chart in Google Sheets displaying 'Units Sold vs. Day' with error bars added to indicate variability.

Adjust the color and style of the error bars as needed.

Conclusion

Adding error bars to a chart in Google Sheets is a simple and effective way to show the variability of your data.

By properly preparing your data, inserting a chart, and customizing the error bars, you can create a clear and informative visualization that will help to convey the results of your analysis.

For more advanced data analytics with your business data, consider exploring Coefficient!

Sync Live Data into Your Spreadsheet

Connect Google Sheets or Excel to your business systems, import your data, and set it on a refresh schedule.

Try the Spreadsheet Automation Tool Over 350,000 Professionals are Raving About

Tired of spending endless hours manually pushing and pulling data into Google Sheets? Say goodbye to repetitive tasks and hello to efficiency with Coefficient, the leading spreadsheet automation tool trusted by over 350,000 professionals worldwide.

Sync data from your CRM, database, ads platforms, and more into Google Sheets in just a few clicks. Set it on a refresh schedule. And, use AI to write formulas and SQL, or build charts and pivots.

Julian Alvarado Content Marketing
Julian is a dynamic B2B marketer with 8+ years of experience creating full-funnel marketing journeys, leveraging an analytical background in biological sciences to examine customer needs.
350,000+ happy users
Wait, there's more!
Connect any system to Google Sheets in just seconds.
Get Started Free

Trusted By Over 20,000 Companies