Writing for Business and Industry



Displaying information with graphs


Week 1 -- Graphics reading

Week 2 -- Graphics reading



Create a Word document that contains this image and format it in these different ways. Email me your design. You can use any text.

First image. In its own paragraph. The image is fixed with respect to the text and will move with it. (this means if I add text to a previous paragraph, the images moves down with the text),

Second image. Placed inside a paragraph with square wrapping and the text .4 inches from the left side.The image is fixed with respect to the text and will move with it.

Third image. Placed so it will remain at the top of a page (actually at the top of the margin and not in the header area). Use top/bottom wrapping. The image is fixed at the top of the page and text will move around it. Keep the image out of the margin.


Complete the Graphics quiz in Blackboard. The quiz is open book (the browser is not locked down), but you can only take it once.

Inclass - week 1

Power point slides week 1

Power point slides week 2

Problems with text and graphics

Table or graphs

Supermarket scanner

Figure captions

Image perception

Discussion questions

Week 1


What is the design problem with this image (the same issue shows up in the first comic)? If you were showing enrollment changes or production changes over time, what is the problem with using figures like the three sizes of trees or in the LuAnn comic? (ignore the age issues and the lack of a y axis values....we are thinking about the big picture size/scaling issues here. This could be three different sized Christmas trees or coffee cups.)

So the real questions, you graduate and are sitting in some meeting where long term decisions are being made and this style of graphic shows up in the powerpoint presentation....

Is the presenter trying to lead the decision makers into making the decision he wants?


Is the presenter just picking a cool looking graph without realizing the presentation issues?

Can this type of graph lead you to make decisions which you would not have made if a basic bar graph was used?


These two graphs show the same data, but have different scales. (notice the one on the left has squares versus the rectangles on the right) How does this affect how people will read and respond to the information? How can this change in scale affect how a management team might make decisions? What are the ethical and practical issues of determining the scaling of a graph?

You can ignore the x & y axis labels and replace them one relevant to business, such as production rates, sales changes, etc. What if you put one of these graphs into a report that was discussing how making a set of changes to production workflow would improve efficiency? Or what if you opposed the changes and were writing a rebuttal that production workflow should remain the same?

Assume only one graph would appear in a report.

Week 2

Q 1.

Many textbooks) encourages the use of graphics "whenever" they would normally be necessary," but does not really explain when that is. Based on what we've read so far, can the "need for graphics" be clearly defined? How do you think that "need" should be determined? Remember that most graphics require hiring an artist. They require actual money rather than just more of your (the writer's) time.

Discuss how you determine to use a specific graphic, why you do not use another? Or, for that matter, whether a graphic should be used. How do you feel about using the same image on each web page as discussed on Spool’s tips for deciding which graphic to use? How do you draw your user in with graphics and convey your message without distracting with graphics? (UIEtips Deciding When Graphics Will Help (and When They Don't))

weak answer Graphics should only be used if they further the reader's understanding of the information, or make it easier for the reader to absorb the information. If a graphic is there simply to break up the space or make the document look pretty, then it probably isn't a good use of space/money. I think it is difficult to find a circumstance where using the same graphic on every website would actually further the readers understanding of the information. If that graphic is not specifically tied to the information on that page, then it is hard to justify spending the money to have it created. Unnecessary graphics can cause a reader to get distracted or confused about the real content of the communication.

Weak answer: A graphic would be necessary when explaining something in writing alone is not sufficient, engaging, or effective enough to make the writing intelligible. A good guideline to follow would be, if a graphic will help a document achieve its object, then use it. Obviously, application of a guideline like this requires good judgment. As a technical writer crafts a document, they should be looking for ways to make their points very clear. If a graphic will amplify a reader’s understanding of a key concept or point, then the writer should probably use it.


The class notes that I've given you say that you should use a line graph for continuous data and a bar graph for discrete data. Yet, I'm willing to bet that on the recommendation report that some of you will use a line graph for yearly sales data (three points). It's also easy to find sources that say a line makes it easier to show a trend, but this ignores issues that only a few points on the line have any meaning. By that logic, you can use a line and a bar graph interchangeably for discrete data.

Find a few sources outside of the class readings that make an argument both ways and discuss how well they agree or disagree on whether or not a line or bar graph can be used interchangeably for discrete data. Be sure to cite the sources in your answer. You can also use reference the class readings, but you must go beyond them.



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