Technical Writing



Visuals and graphics


Week 1 -- Graphic readings

Week 2 -- Graphic readings


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

The formatting and information access of your answers matter in this assignment. In technical communication, how you present an answer is as important as what you present.


Create three different graphs that can show this data. All three graphs should be substantially different (changing just the bar/line color is not substantial) Include all three graphs in the Word file. Then explain:

a) which you feel is the proper graph (and only one) and explain your design choice against the other two.

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

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

d) 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.


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. Always keeping image at the top without text wrapping around it is wrong.



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

  • shaded cells 15% gray
  • 4pt above & below the paragraphs.
  • Primed column has a   .2” left cell margin  with left aligned text (you'll have to research how to set the cell margin...expect it to come back and haunt you on the final exam)
  • 3pt heavy rule
  • Cells are centered vertical.
  • Cells are centered horizontal, except the Primed column.



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?

Another question to ask yourself is how you would remember this information in a couple of days.   You see this on Monday and on Thursday you need to make a long-term production related decision (you don't have access to the graph).   How will you remember the growth of the company?

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


I found this graphic in an article about how much people trusted various government groups (the bars were labeled but I deleted those to avoid political discussion). How easy is it to compare different items (such as "not at all") between groups? What does this sort of structure do to the idea of 100%? How should this information be structured?


What does "correct" when applied to a graph? How do you determine if it is correct enough? The drawings is correct, but also clearly are not really correct in that the circulatory system doesn't really look like this.



Anderson p. 393 Question 1. The evaluation of the package inserts.



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