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Using standard notations for time periods (for flow measures) and points of time (for stock measures) is important as they are frequently applied to all forms of business communication. This requires standard notations for the visual direction of time, time period and points of time abbreviations and – in charts with horizontal time axes – category widths.


Visual direction of time periods

In charts, horizontal axes visualize data series over time. In tables, present data series over time in columns. In both cases time moves from left to right.



Time period and points of time abbreviations

For a better understanding, use unified abbreviations for time periods and points in time. The following abbreviations work well:




A “.” (full-stop) before the period name indicates the first day of a time period, e.g. “.2015” for the first day of 2015 or “.Jun” for the first day of June.


Likewise, append a “.” (full-stop) to the period name to visualize the last day of a time period, e.g. “2015.” for the last day of 2015 or “Jun.” for the last day of June.


The sign “..” (two full-stops) indicates a time span, e.g. “Jan..Mar” (without blanks) for “from January to March.” N.B.: Use two dots instead of three dots (ellipsis). 


Category widths

When helpful, differentiate different types of time periods with different category widths according to this rule: the longer the period the wider the category segments on the category axis.


It might be necessary to use rather wide category segments to label stacked columns or rather narrow category segments due to restricted dashboard space. In any case, if certain period types have been allocated certain category widths, this allocation should be the same for the entire report or presentation.




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