Technical Editing & Production



Displaying information with graphs


The Graph. (6 meg)

How people approach graphical information

Which type of graph to use

2D’s Company, 3D’s a Crowd

Ethical graph design and use

Universal principles of design

Picture superiority effect, p. 152

Additional (optional)

Nightingale graphics

Verbal Versus Visual

Ten Tips for Talking to Artists

CDC graph guidelines

Review of Graph Comprehension Research

Homework assignment

Answer these questions and email me your answers.
The answers must be in your own words and not a cut&paste from another source.

1. Create a proper graph for this data and explain your design choice.

2. What are some issues to consider when using colors in a graphic? The answer applies 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 do respond better to visuals than text, so why not use clipart as the visual?

5. 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.

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.


6. 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 portray 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. Assume only one graph will be in the report. 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?



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?


Here's an assignment on ethical graphics I give to my undergrad classes for both the intro to TC class and the editing class. (they are variations of the same assignment) What things would you do the graph to accomplish the specific objectives if you were creating the graphs? How would you respond as an editor if you received such a graph? What are the ethical issues?

weak answer I think that if trying to make the data appear positive or negative, the author of these graphs adopted effective, if unethical, strategies. By not starting the Y axis at 0, the data is misrepresented. Also, using large increments (100 points) shows little change. On the second graph, Y starts close to the lowest value, which makes that value appear to be lower than it is in comparison with the other information. As an editor with a concern to present information ethically, I would suggest using both a table and a line graph.


Thoughts to ponder

Several of our readings emphasize the importance of honesty when using graphics. Most research of visual aids focus on the possibility for deception and a misinterpretation of information intentionally or accidentally when portrayed in a table, graph, drawing, or photograph. How would you insure ethical accuracy of graphics in your technical communication given the myriad of ways to manipulate information?



How to do stuff

How to keep a figure on the same page as its caption in Microsoft Word


Notice how the youngest LuAnn looks much bigger than the middle LuAnn, even though it is less than twice as tall.


Design by Michael J. Albers Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
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