Communication Resources 

 

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.

 



References:

 

Anderson, Paul V. (2007)  Technical Communication: A Reader Centered Approach. United States: Thomson Wadsworth.

 

Lehman, Carol M. & DuFrene, Debbie D. (2005) Business Communication, 14th ed.  United States: Thomson South-Western.