Displaying Graphic Information
Graphical elements such as charts, graphs, maps and tables are incorporated into a report, analysis or recommendation in order to help readers better explain the information presented. Some benefits of using graphics include:
- Making information easier to understand
- Graphics capture readers' attention
- Graphics convey a lot of data in an efficient manner
When deciding whether to use a graphic, keep in mind both the needs of your audience as well as the function of the paper. Some simple ways to check whether a graphic is appropriate for your audience and purpose:
- Is it more efficient to use graphics rather than words?
- Is the graphic easier to understand than explanatory sentences?
- Is the graphic integrally connected with your text?
Choosing the Appropriate Graphic
Choosing a graphic that best illustrates your information will increase your paper's effectiveness. Some common graphics and their uses.
A Table: Systematically presents specific numbers and detailed information
A Bar Chart: Allows comparisons, shows changes in a single item over time
A Line Chart: Conveys trends or plots relationships between variables
A Flow Chart: Depicts a sequence of events
A Pie Chart: Compares parts to the whole
Once you have chosen your graphical element, you must ensure that it supports the point you are making.
- Keep your graphics simple, using a manageable amount of material without unnecessary details.
- Provide clear labels so the reader knows exactly what he or she is looking at.
- Provide informative titles and captions.
- Use color only for emphasis.
Integrating Graphics with Text
Some tips on ensuring that your graphic is meaningfully incorporated into the body of your report or document:
- Introduce your graphic in the text, stating the main point that it illustrates, without repeating all the information presented in it.
- Insert the graphic as near the point it illustrates as possible. If there is insufficient space on the same page, put it at the top of the next page.
- If it must go in the appendix, cross-reference clearly.
- State the conclusions that you want your readers to draw from the graphic.
- Cite the source of your graphic immediately below, or along one side of the graphic.
Graphics are essential in business and technical writing, so construct your graphical elements carefully.
V. (2007) Technical Communication: A Reader Centered Approach.
Lehman, Carol M. & DuFrene, Debbie D. (2005) Business Communication, 14th ed. United States: Thomson South-Western.