Wrap Long Axis Labels of ggplot2 Plot into Multiple Lines in R (Example)


In this R tutorial you’ll learn how to automatically wrap long axis labels of a ggplot2 graphic.

Table of contents:

Here’s the step-by-step process:


Example Data, Add-On Packages & Basic Graphic

At first, we need to construct some example data:

data <- data.frame(x = c("short",    # Create example data
                         "that's a bit longer",
                         "very very very very very very very looooong label"), 
                   y = 1:3)
data                                 # Print example data
#                                                   x y
# 1                                             short 1
# 2                               that's a bit longer 2
# 3 very very very very very very very looooong label 3

As you can see based on the previous output of the RStudio console, our example data is a data frame constituted of three rows and the two columns “x” and “y”. The variable x is a character and the variable y has the integer class.

We also need to install and load the ggplot2 package to RStudio, to be able to use the functions that are included in the package:

install.packages("ggplot2")          # Install ggplot2 package
library("ggplot2")                   # Load ggplot2 package

Now, we can plot our data as follows:

ggp <- ggplot(data, aes(x, y)) +     # Create ggplot2 barplot
  geom_bar(stat = "identity")
ggp                                  # Print ggplot2 barplot


r graph figure 1 wrap long axis labels ggplot2 multiple lines r


By executing the previous syntax we have created Figure 1, i.e. a ggplot2 barchart with default axis labels. As you can see, the axis labels are very long and are partly overlapping each other.


Example: Set Maximum Width of ggplot2 Plot Labels Using str_wrap Function of stringr() Package

The following R programming code demonstrates how to wrap the axis labels of a ggplot2 plot so that they have a maximum width.

For this, we first have to install and load the stringr package.

install.packages("stringr")          # Install stringr package
library("stringr")                   # Load stringr

Now, we can use the str_wrap function of the stringr package to auto wrap the labels of our data to a certain width.

In the following code, we shorten the labels to a maximum width of 10 characters. Whenever this length is exceeded, the label gets broken into a new line.

Have a look at the following R code:

ggp +                                # Modify labels of ggplot2 barplot
  scale_x_discrete(labels = function(x) str_wrap(x, width = 10))


r graph figure 2 wrap long axis labels ggplot2 multiple lines r


After executing the previously shown R programming syntax the ggplot2 barplot with multi-line labels shown in Figure 2 has been plotted. As you can see, the labels are properly formatted and are not overlapping anymore.

Looks good!


Video, Further Resources & Summary

Some time ago I have released a video on my YouTube channel, which shows the R programming code of this article. Please find the video below:


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Furthermore, you may read the related tutorials which I have published on https://www.statisticsglobe.com/.


To summarize: You have learned in this article how to automatically wrap too long axis labels of a ggplot2 plot across multiple lines in R programming. If you have further questions and/or comments, let me know in the comments.


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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Christine Kraamwinkel
    January 5, 2022 10:06 am


    I am working on survey data and the data itself will determine the labels I need on my graph axis. How do I get ggplot to extract those specific labels and then wrap them? I hope my question makes sense! This is my code so far:

    ggplot(data=fulldata, aes(y=Health_Months)) +
    geom_bar(stat=”count”,fill=”#69b3a2″) +
    labs(title=”Household health for the past 12 months”,subtitle=”All households in the pre-test survey”, y=”Frequency”, x = NULL)

    • Hey Christine,

      Could you illustrate how your data is structured in some more detail? What kind of values are contained in the variable Health_Months, and what are the labels that should be shown on your x-axis?



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