Keith Kelly looks at examples of the language of line graphs from the area of geography, covering rich idiom, verb, noun, adjective and adverbial phrases.

Phrases for upward movement

rise, grow, climb (+ steeply / rapidly / steadily / slowly / gradually) soar, rocket

  • In the early period, we can see that the planet’s population rose slowly and gradually.
  • We can see that from 1750 onwards, the world’s population grew much more rapidly than before.
  • The graph shows that throughout the early nineteenth century, the population of the UK soared.

a slight / sharp increase, a steep rise
There is a sharp increase in the numbers of women in Britain involved in industrial paid employment during the Second World War.

have / experience a steady growth, show a steady increase / a gradual rise

  • Birth rates have shown a steady increase in population of nearly two per cent per annum.
  • There has been a steady growth in the number and size of towns and cities throughout the world.

reach a plateau, show a wide / narrow peak

  • Tourist numbers on the island reached a plateau in the months of July and August.
  • Brazil’s population shows a narrow peak.
  • Germany’s population shows a wide peak with more females than males over the age of seventy.

Phrases for movement up and down

fluctuate, wild fluctuations in
The population of the earth fluctuated in the initial stages.

Phrases for downward movement

plunge, plummet
Over the same period, the price of raw coffee beans has actually plunged on the world market.

drop, dip
The price of green vegetables in Europe has dipped in comparison to the same period last year.

fall steadily / considerably / sharply, quickly drop

  • Since the end of the 19th century the number of inhabitants in rural areas has fallen steadily.
  • Gold quickly dropped from Friday’s high of 1634.90.

a sharp / considerable / rapid drop, a steady fall, a slight dip

  • The statistics show a rapid drop in small business bankruptcies over the last month.
  • House prices saw a steady fall in the fourth quarter of 2010.
  • The data shows a slight dip in unemployment figures for the end of 2010.

Phrases for level / stable movement

level off / out, flatten off / out

  • The figures show that car insurance premiums are levelling off.
  • The 2009 sales graph indicates that iPhone sales flattened off for the last two quarters of the year.

a stable position
Employment in services maintained a stable position between 1960 and 1990.

Adverbs and adjectives

upward, downward
Women’s industrial wages moved steadily upward in the first quarter.

slowly but steadily
The price of processed coffee grew slowly but steadily between 1990 and 2010.

more or less
Look at the graph and name the years during which stock remained more or less steady for the longest period.

Consumption of energy has increased rapidly since the late 1950s.

Time phrases

in the last / first / third quarter
The number of deaths from famine and disease increases twofold in the last quarter.

over the year / whole year / first three quarters
Burning fossil fuels has increased enormously over the last 100 years.

since then
Forty years ago, few people lived on the periphery of the city centre. Since then, there has been a massive increase in numbers of houses there.