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Andrew Gelman, Avert Your Eyes!

- March 26, 2009

It’s tolerably well known that our colleague, Andrew Gelman, is deeply, deeply pained by bad graphs (so much so that I once deliberately posted a horrid Excel graph on this blog to provoke a reaction from him). I wonder what he thinks of this graph, plucked from the obscurity where it belongs by “Chad Orzel”:http://scienceblogs.com/principles/2009/03/the_confusing_display_of_quant.php.

!https://themonkeycage.org/rd1.gif!

As Chad puts it:

bq. The numerical labels for the horizontal axis are up at the top, rather than at the bottom where they usually go. The label that states what’s actually plotted on that axis is down at the bottom of the graph, where it appears to be just a stray bit of text labelling nothing, while the explanation of what is on the vertical axis is presented as a sort of subtitle (while the axis itself gets only the uninformative label “Percent”), directly above the numerical labels of the horizontal axis, making it look like the percent change in nonfarm employment is plotted on the horizontal axis. As if that weren’t enough, the horizontal axis labels are sideways, for no earthly reason I can think of, so you have to turn your head to read them.

My sense though is that this graph, while awful, is far from the worst I’ve ever seen. Commenters – what are the stinkiest graphs you’ve come across? (links are encouraged but not obligatory). The race is on …

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