English
4780

Technical Writing

Spring
2017

 

Visuals readings Week 4

Ethical graphics

Comments

 

Readings

Ethical graphic design and use

What's wrong with this graph?

Great moments in deceptive graphs

Misleading Graphs: Figures Not Drawn to Scale

Voice

Use of non-zero scales

Comments

Ethical graph design guidelines call for the y-axis scale to start at zero. Excel rarely starts at zero and picks what seems to be a random non-zero starting point.

These readings consider the nuances of when/when not to start at zero. That decision must consider what is being communicated. Blindly depending on Excel to set your graph scales is poor practice and will lead to unethical and misleading graphs.

Readings

Should all graphs start at zero

When to use the start-at-zero rule

When its ok to not start at zero

Voice

 

Text and visuals work together

Comments

The expression that a picture is worth a thousand words can be very misleading. It may save you writing 1000 words, but it often cannot carry the entire message by itself.

The text contains the real message and the numbers/visuals support that message. Confirmation bias and expectancy bias exert a strong influence on how a stand-alone visual gets interpreted; the text helps to direct the reader to the interpretation they should have.

Readings

 

Voice

 

2D versus 3D graphics

Comments

In general, unless you have three dimensions of data, use 2D graphics. They are easier to read.

Readings

Problems of 3D graphs

Voice
Connections:

Tell a story

Comments

Text and visuals work together to tell a story. If there is no story, you have a data dump.

Programmer Steve Losh has written a lengthy explanation of what separates good documentation from bad, and how to go about planning and writing documentation that will actually help people. His overarching point is that documentation should be used to teach, not to dump excessive amounts of unstructured information onto a user. Losh takes many of the common documentation tropes — "read the source," "look at the tests," "read the docstrings" — and makes analogies with learning everyday skills to show how silly they can be. "This is your driving teacher, Ms. Smith. ... If you have any questions about a part of the car while you’re driving, you can ask her and she’ll tell you all about that piece. Here are the keys, good luck!" Consider a car user manual. When something goes wrong and you need to replace a tire it’s a godsend. But if you’re learning to drive it’s not going to help you because people don’t learn by reading alphabetized lists of disconnected information." Losh's advice for wikis is simple and straightforward: "They are bad and terrible. Do not use them."

Readings

Engaging documentation

Writing great documentation

 

Voice

 

Move from Data to Information to Insight

Comments

Communicating a message (and that is your job) is not dumping data on a reader and letting them figure it out. You job is to interpret the information and provide the reader with the synthesized information they need.

Readings

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js1CzOAgTtk

Voice

 

 

Design by Michael J. Albers Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
Send me an email.