Label charts as a figure and number them in order. Figures should have a main title and a statistical subtitle. Titles and subtitles should be concise and in sentence case.
The main title should be descriptive, and tell the trend of the data or highlight the main story. Try to limit the number of words to no more than 10. This should make the description easier to read and avoid the text wrapping onto several lines, especially on mobile devices.
If you need to add context or detail to the chart, use annotations or support with your analysis.
The statistical subtitle should be as short as possible and must include the:
- statistical measure
- geographic coverage
- time period
You do not need to include these elements in the subtitle if they are already in the main heading.
Writing chart titles to support your analysis
When writing your chart title and analysis:
- use chart titles to complement or build on, but not repeat section headings
- add further context and explanation of the chart’s message in your main text
- do not try and summarise everything the chart says in the title, but prioritise the main message
Take care not to use language in a title that you would not use in your analysis. Exaggerated language such as “greatest rise ever” may be more eye-catching, but use sparingly as it may appear sensationalist or could potentially be misinterpreted.
It can be useful to draw attention to a record level being recorded in the most recent data, but if a new record continues to be set every month, using the same title will lose its impact. Use sparingly and find another message to concentrate on instead.
Examples of how to write chart titles and subtitles
Your title can refer to a shorter period than shown on the chart. You can highlight an important short-term trend and give broader context by using a longer timeframe in your chart and analysis.
If your chart has more than one message
If a chart has more than one narrative, choose the one that will be most relevant to users for the main title. Use annotations to draw attention to secondary messages, but do not try and explain every nuance in the chart when your analysis can provide more detail.
Example of how to use annotations to draw attention to secondary messages
Titles for other visual elements
Other types of visual content can communicate information. If you are using a flow chart or a map, the same titling principles apply. Use a descriptive title to tell the user what the story behind the image is, and use a statistical subtitle if appropriate.
Example of how to write a descriptive title for visual content
Sometimes a graphic may genuinely be one you wish your user to explore – there is no immediate story or message on display. For example, some of the interactive graphics coming from the Data Visualisation team may be in this space. In these rare cases, it is acceptable to use a title that encourages the reader to explore the graphic.
Example of how to write a title for an exploratory tool