Chart titles

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.

Main title

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.

Statistical subtitle

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

A line chart showing the gender pay gap fell to 8.6% among full-time employees in 2018.

A line chart showing that motor trades continued a decline seen over the past 2 years to July to September 2019.

Line chart showing crime rates that homicides have increased over the last four years to year ending June 2018, following a long-term downward trend.

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

Line chart showing that the number of police recorded offences involving firearms has decreased in the latest year to year ending June 2018.

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

An interactive data visualisation map showing that disposable incomes tend to be highest in the South East between 1997 and 2017.

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

A data visualisation explorer tool that allows users to explore how well-being ratings have changed in their area.