Writing for Business and Industry



Displaying information with graphs


Week 1 -- Graphic readings

Week 2 -- Graphic readings


Ethical graphics

Answer these questions and email me your answers. Put all of the answers into a single Word document. This includes the table and the skunk figure placement.
The answers must be in your own words and not a cut&paste from another source.

1. Create three different graphs that can show this data. The write a discussion of which you feel is the proper graph (and only one) and explain your design choice against the other two. All three graphs should be substantially different (changing just the bar/line color is not substantial) Include all three graphs in the Word file. Include a discussion of

a) should the x-axis be regions or products and how does that choices depends on audience and how can it influence reader perception

b) should the total should be included in the graph and how does including/not including it change the reader's perception.

c) whether to use a 2D versus 3D graph

weak answer: I choose a clustered bar chart because it shows both the differences in sales between the different types of toys and also shows the difference is sales for each region.

2. What are some issues to consider when using colors in a graphic? The answer appplies to both images and graphs.

3. Figures captions

a.   Define the parts of a figure caption.
b.   Explain how figures are referenced in a text.  How are figures placed in the text in relation to their in-text reference.
c.   What is the placement for a figure caption with respect to the graphic?

4. When do you use a line drawing and when do you use a photograph? What factors go into making the choice?

5. What is the problem with using clipart in a document or in a presentation? People respond better to visuals than text, so why not use clipart as the visual?

6. Create a Word document that contains this image and format it in these different ways. 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.


7. Create this complex table in Word with the following criteria. All of the formatting done with Word's formatting options, there are no tabs or multiple spaces.

Longer responses (half to a full page)


What is going on in this graph? What information is it trying to protray and why is it so hard to understand? Would you be a happy manager if this showed up in a production report that you had to use to make decisions for the upcoming year? (FYI, Allante is a specific model of Cadillac.)

How would you suggest improving it?


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. Also, assume only one graph would appear in a report.)

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?


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.

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.

Week 2


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.



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