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Speaking Stata: Front-and-back plots to ease spaghetti and paella problems

Cox, Nicholas J. (2021) 'Speaking Stata: Front-and-back plots to ease spaghetti and paella problems.', The Stata Journal: Promoting communications on statistics and Stata, 21 (2). pp. 539-554.


The spaghetti problem arises in graphics when multiple time series or other functional traces show mostly a tangled mess. The related paella problem (often experienced but not usually named as such) arises for multiple patterns combined in scatterplots. This column is a sequel to those in Stata Journal 10: 670–681 (2010) and 19: 989–1008 (2019). The focus is on what are here called front-and-back plots, in which each subset of data is shown separately with the other subsets as backdrop. The strategy is thus a hybrid of two more common strategies, showing each subset separately (juxtaposing) and showing subsets together (superimposing). A new command, fabplot, is introduced and used in examples.

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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Date accepted:31 May 2021
Date deposited:27 August 2021
Date of first online publication:29 June 2021
Date first made open access:27 August 2021

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