Lesikar−Flatley−Rentz: Business Communication: Making Connections in a Digital World, 11th Edition

IV. Fundamentals of Report Writing

13. Graphics © The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2008

c h a p t e r t h i r t e e n



Upon completing this chapter, you will be able to use graphics effectively in business reports. To reach this goal, you should be able to

1 Plan which parts of your report should be communicated by graphics.

2 Explain the general mechanics of constructing graphics—size, layout, type, rules and borders, color and cross-hatching, clip art, background, numbering, titles, title placement, and footnotes and acknowledgments.

3 Construct textual graphics such as tables, pull quotes, fl owcharts, and process charts.

4 Construct and use visual graphics such as bar charts, pie charts, line charts, scatter diagrams, and maps.

5 Avoid common errors and ethical problems when constructing and using graphics.

6 Place and interpret graphics effectively.

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IV. Fundamentals of Report Writing

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CHAPTER 13 Graphics 413


Graphics In your management job at Pinnacle, you proofread reports prepared by your co-workers. Because Pinnacle uses chemicals in its products, many of the reports are highly technical and complex. Many others, especially those com- ing from fi nance and sales, are fi lled with facts and fi gures. In your judgment, most of the reports you have proofread are hard to understand. The one you are looking at now is packed with page after page of sales statistics. Your mind quickly gets lost in the mass of details. Why didn’t the writer take the time to summarize the more important fi gures in a chart? And why didn’t the writer put some of the details in tables? Many of the other reports you have been reading, especially the technical ones, are in equal need of graphics. Bar charts, pie charts, and maps would certainly help explain some of the concepts discussed. If only report writers would understand that words alone sometimes cannot communicate clearly—that words sometimes need to be supplemented with visual communication techniques. If the writers of your reports studied the following review of graphics, your job would be easier and more enjoyable. So would the jobs of the readers of those reports.

In many of your reports you will need to use graphics to help convey information quickly and accurately. Graphics both grab attention and are retained longer. By graph- ics we mean any form of illustration: charts, pictures, diagrams, maps. Although tables and bulleted lists are predominantly text, their format permits us to include them here. Also, most computer presentation programs include these formats.

PLANNING THE GRAPHICS You should plan the graphics for a report soon after you organize your fi ndings. Your planning of graphics should be based on the need to communicate. Graphics serve one main purpose—to communicate—and you should use them primarily for that purpose. Graphics can clarify complex or diffi cult information, emphasize facts, add coherence, summarize data, and provide interest. Additionally, today’s data mining and visualiza- tion tools help writers fi lter the vast amount of data that are gathered and stored regu- larly. Of course, well-constructed graphics also enhance the appearance of a report. In selecting graphics, you should review the information that your report will con- tain, looking for any possibility of improving communication of the report through the use of graphics. Specifi cally, you should look for complex information that visual presentation can make clear, for information too detailed to be covered in words, and for information that deserves special emphasis. Of course, you will want to plan with your reader in mind. You will choose graph- ics appropriate to both the content and context where they are presented. The time and money you spend on gathering information or creating a graphic should be balanced in terms of the importance of the message you want to convey. Thus, you construct graph- ics to help the reader understand the report more quickly, easily, and completely. As you plan the graphics, remember that unlike info graphics that stand alone, report graphics should supplement the writing or speaking—not take its place. They should help the wording by covering the more diffi cult parts, emphasizing the important points, and presenting details. But the words should carry the main message—all of it.

DETERMINING THE GENERAL MECHANICS OF CONSTRUCTION In constructing graphics, you will be concerned with various mechanical matters. The most common are summarized in the following paragraphs.

• A graphic is any form of illustration.

• You should plan the use of graphics as you plan your report.

• In planning their use, look for information that they can help communicate.

• Plan graphics with your reader in mind.

• But remember that graphics supplement and do not replace the writing

Lesikar−Flatley−Rentz: Business Communication: Making Connections in a Digital World, 11th Edition

IV. Fundamentals of Report Writing

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414 PART 4 Fundamentals of Report Writing

Size Determination One of the fi rst decisions you must make in constructing a graphic is determining its size. This decision should not be arbitrary, and it should not be based on conve- nience. You should give the graphic the size that its contents and importance justify. If a graphic is simple (with only two or three quantities), a quarter page might be more than enough and a full page would be too much unless its importance needed empha- sis. But if a graphic must display complex or detailed information, a full page might be justifi ed. With extremely complex, involved information, you may need to use more than a full page. When you do, make certain that this large page is inserted and folded so that the readers can open it easily. The fold you select will be determined by the size of the page. You simply have to experiment until you fi nd a convenient fold.

Layout Arrangement You should determine the layout (shape) of the graphic by size and content require- ments. Sometimes a tall, narrow rectangle (portrait) is the answer; sometimes the answer is a short, wide rectangle or a full-page rectangle (landscape). You simply consider the logical possibilities and select the one that appears best.

Type Type used in graphics throughout a report is generally consistent in both style and font. Style refers to the look of the type such as bold or italics; font refers to the look of the letters such as with or without feet (serif or sans serif). Occasionally you may want to vary the type, but do so by design for some special reason. Be aware that even the design of the font you choose will convey a message, a message that should work with the text content and design. If your reader will be viewing the document on screen in Word 2007 or on a Vista computer with ClearType, be sure to use one of the fonts optimized for use with ClearType such as Cambria or Calibri. They were designed to render well on the screen, and Microsoft’s research has confi rmed that they enable people to read faster and more accurately, leading to a 7 percent average increase in productivity.1

Size is another variable to watch. The size you choose should look appropriate in the context in which it is used. Your top priority in choosing type style, font, and size should be readability.

Rules and Borders You should use rules and borders when they help the appearance of the graphic. Rules help distinguish one section or graphic from another, while borders help sepa- rate graphics from the text. In general, you should place borders around graphics that

1 Bill Hill, Microsoft Project Manager, video interview, 29 May 2006 <http://download.microsoft.com/download/ 8/1/c/81cdb151-0aae-4f50-ab44-654b5f7ae0db/cleartype_2005.wmv>.

• Make each graphic the size that its contents justify.

• Graphics larger than a page are justifi ed if they contain enough information.

• Size and contents determine the shape of graphics.

• Choose a type to help convey the message clearly.

• Choose a type size that is readable.

• Use rules and borders when they help appearance.

Lesikar−Flatley−Rentz: Business Communication: Making Connections in a Digital World, 11th Edition

IV. Fundamentals of Report Writing

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CHAPTER 13 Graphics 415

occupy less than a full page. You also can place borders around full-page graphics, but such borders serve little practical value. Except in cases in which graphics simply will not fi t into the normal page layout, you should not extend the borders of graphics beyond the normal page margins.

Color and Cross-Hatching Color and cross-hatching, appropriately used, help readers see comparisons and dis- tinctions (see Figure 13–1). In fact, research has found that color in graphics improves the comprehension, retention, and ease of extracting information. Also, both color and cross-hatching add to the attractiveness of the report. Because color is especially effec- tive for this purpose, you should use it whenever practical and appropriate.

Clip Art Today you can get good-looking clip art easily—so easily in fact that some writers often overuse it. Although clip art can add interest and bring the reader into a graphic effectively, it also can overpower and distract the reader. The general rule is to keep in mind the purpose your clip art is serving: to help the reader understand the content. It should be appropriate in both its nature and size. It also should be appropriate in its representation of gender, race, and age. Also, if it is copyrighted, you need permission to use it.

Background Background colors, photos, and art for your graphics should be chosen carefully. The color should provide high contrast with the data and not distract from the main mes- sage. Photos, especially faded photos, that are well chosen can add interest and draw the reader in. However, photos as well as other art can send other messages and evoke emotions not appropriate or desirable for the message the graphic conveys. Addition- ally, when graphics are used cross-culturally, you will want to be sure the message your background sends is the one you intended by testing or reviewing it with the intended receivers.

Numbering Except for minor tabular displays, pull quotes, and clip art, you should number all the graphics in the report. Many schemes of numbering are available to you, depending on the make-up of the graphics. If you have many graphics that fall into two or more categories, you may number each of the categories consecutively. For example, if your report is illustrated by six tables, fi ve charts, and six maps, you may number these graphics Table I, Table II, . . . Table VI; Chart 1, Chart 2, . . . Chart 5; and Map 1, Map 2, . . . Map 6. But if your graphics comprise a wide mixture of types, you may number them in two groups: tables and fi gures. Figures, a miscellaneous grouping, may include all types other than tables. To illustrate, consider a report containing three tables, two maps, three

Figure 13–1

Color versus Cross- hatched Pie

• Color and cross-hatching can improve graphics.

• Use clip art to help your reader understand your message.

• Background color, photos, and art should enhance the message of the graphic.

• Number graphics consecutively by type.

• Figures are a miscellaneous grouping of types. Number tables separately.

Lesikar−Flatley−Rentz: Business Communication: Making Connections in a Digital World, 11th Edition

IV. Fundamentals of Report Writing

13. Graphics © The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2008

416 PART 4 Fundamentals of Report Writing

charts, one diagram, and one photograph. You could number these graphics Table I, Table II, and Table III and Figure 1, Figure 2, . . . Figure 7. By convention, tables are not grouped with other types of graphics. But it would not be wrong to group and number as fi gures all graphics other than tables even if the group contained suffi cient subgroups (charts, maps, and the like) to permit separate numbering of each of them.

Construction of Titles and Captions Every graphic should have a title or caption that adequately describes its contents. A title is used with graphics displayed in oral presentations; a caption is used with graph- ics included in print documents. Like the headings used in other parts of the report, the title or caption of the graphic has the objective of concisely covering the contents. As a check of content coverage, you might well use the journalist’s fi ve Ws: who, what, where, when, and why, and sometimes you also might use how. But because conciseness also is desired, it is not always necessary to include all the Ws in the title. The title or caption of a chart comparing the annual sales volume of the Texas and California territories of the Dell Company for the years 2006–07 might be constructed as follows:

Who: Dell Company What: Annual sales Where: Texas and California branches When: 2006–07 Why: For comparison

The title or caption might read, “Comparative Annual Sales of Texas and California Territories of the Dell Company, 2006–07.” For even more conciseness, you could use a major title and subtitle. The major title might read, “A Texas and California Sales Comparison”; the subtitle might read, “Dell Company 2006–07.” Similarly, the caption might read “A Texas and California Sales Comparison: Dell Company 2006–2007.” An alternative to this kind of topic heading is a talking heading. As you learned in Chapter 10, the talking heading tells the reader the nature of what is to follow. The same holds true for a graphic. In this case a talking heading might read, “Texas Leads California in Total Annual Sales for 2006.” In a sense, it gives the reader the main message of the graphic. You’ll see another example of a talking heading in Figure 13–8, Illustration of a Bi-lateral Column Chart, which reads, “NASCAR Leads in Fan Base Growth.”

Placement of Titles and Captions In documents, titles of tables conventionally appear above the tabular display; captions of all other types of graphics conventionally appear below it. In presentations, titles


Clear Evidence of the Value of Accurate Charts

“To what do you attribute your company’s success?” asked the interviewer. “A line chart,” replied the executive. “In the early years of our company, we had some real problems. Productivity was low, and we were losing money. So to impress our problem on our workers, I had a line chart painted on the wall of our main building. Every day, when the workers arrived, they saw our profi t picture. Well, the profi t line kept going down. It went from the third fl oor, to the second, to the fi rst, to ground level. Then we had to bring in digging equipment to keep the line going. But keep it going we did—until the line dramatically reversed direction.” “The workers fi nally got the message?” asked the interviewer. “No,” replied the executive, “the digger struck oil.”

• The titles should describe content clearly (consider the fi ve Ws: who, what, where, when, why ).

• The conventional placement of titles is at the top for tables and at the bottom for charts. But many place all titles at the top.

Lesikar−Flatley−Rentz: Business Communication: Making Connections in a Digital World, 11th Edition

IV. Fundamentals of Report Writing

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CHAPTER 13 Graphics 417

of both tables and other charts and illustrations are usually placed above the graphic. There has been a trend toward using title case type for all illustration titles and plac- ing the titles of both tables and fi gures at the top. In fact, most presentation programs default to the top. These practices are simple and logical; yet you should follow the conventional practices for the more formal reports.

Footnotes and Acknowledgments Parts of a graphic sometimes require special explanation or elaboration. When this happens, as when similar situations arise in connection with the text of the report, you should use footnotes. Such footnotes are concise explanations placed below the illustration and keyed to the part explained by means of a superscript (raised) number or symbol (asterisk, dagger, double dagger, and so on). Footnotes for tables are best placed immediately below the graphic presentation. Footnotes for other graphic forms follow the illustration when the title or caption is placed at the bottom of the graphic. Usually, a source acknowledgment is the bottom entry made in the graphic context. By source acknowledgment we mean a reference to the body or authority that deserves the credit for gathering the data used in the illustration. The entry consists simply of the word Source followed by a colon and the source name. A source note for data based on information gathered by the U.S. Department of Commerce might read like this:

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce

If you or your staff collected the data, you may either omit the source note or give the source as “Primary,” in which case the note would read like this:

Source: Primary

CONSTRUCTING TEXTUAL GRAPHICS Graphics for communicating report information fall into two general categories: those that communicate primarily by their textual content (words and numerals) and those that communicate primarily by some form of picture. Included in the textual group are tables, pull quotes, and a variety of fl ow and process charts (Gantt, fl ow, organization, and such).

Tables A table is an orderly arrangement of information in rows and columns. As we have noted, tables are not truly graphic (not really pictures). But they communicate like graphics, and they have many of the characteristics of graphics. Two basic types of tables are available to you: the general-purpose table and the special-purpose table. General-purpose tables cover a broad area of information. For example, a table reviewing the answers to all the questions in a survey is a general- purpose table. Such tables usually belong in the appendix. Special-purpose tables are prepared for one special purpose: to illustrate a particular part of the report. They contain information that could be included with related infor- mation in a general-purpose table. For example, a table presenting the answer to one of the questions in a survey is a special-purpose table. Such tables belong in the report text near the discussion of their contents. Aside from the title, footnotes, and source designation previously discussed, a table contains heads, columns, and rows of data, as shown in Figure 13–2. Row heads are the titles of the rows of data, and spanner heads are the titles of the columns. The span- ner heads, however, may be divided into column heads, as they are often called. The construction of text tables is largely infl uenced by their purpose. Nevertheless, a few general construction rules may be listed:

• If rows are long, the row heads may be repeated at the right.

• Use footnotes to explain or elaborate.

• Acknowledge the source of data with note below.

• “Source: Primary” is the proper note for data you gathered.

• Graphics fall into two general categories: (1) textual (words and numerals) and (2) visual (pictures).

• A table is an orderly arrangement of information.

• You may use general- purpose tables (those containing broad information),

• or you may use special- purpose tables (those covering a specifi c area of information).

• See Figure 13–2 for details of table arrangement.

Lesikar−Flatley−Rentz: Business Communication: Making Connections in a Digital World, 11th Edition

IV. Fundamentals of Report Writing

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418 PART 4 Fundamentals of Report Writing

• The em dash (—) or the abbreviation n.a. (or N.A. or NA), but not the zero, is used to indicate data not available.

• Footnote references to numbers in the table should be keyed with asterisks, daggers, double daggers, and such. Numbers followed by footnote reference numbers may cause confusion. Small letters of the alphabet can be used when many references are made.

• Totals and subtotals should appear whenever they help the purpose of the table. The totals may be for each column and sometimes for each row. Row totals are usually placed at the right; but when they need emphasis, they may be placed at the left. Likewise, column totals are generally placed at the bottom of the column, but they may be placed at the top when the writer wants to emphasize them. A ruled line (usually a double one) separates the totals from their components.

• The units in which the data are recorded must be clear. Unit descriptions (bushels, acres, pounds, and the like) appropriately appear above the columns, as part of the headings or subheadings. If the data are in dollars, however, placing the dollar mark ($) before the fi rst entry in each column is suffi cient.

Tabular information need not always be presented in formal tables. In fact, short arrangements of data may be presented more effectively as parts of the text. Such ar- rangements are generally made as either leaderwork or text tabulations.

Leaderwork is the presentation of tabular material in the text without titles or rules. (Leaders are the repeated dots with intervening spaces.) Typically, a colon precedes the tabulation, as in this illustration:

The August sales of the representatives in the Western Region were as follows:

Charles B. Brown . . . . . . . . . . $33,517 Thelma Capp . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39,703 Bill E. Knauth . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38,198

Text tabulations are simple tables, usually with column heads and some rules. But they are not numbered, and they have no titles. They are made to read with the text, as in this example:

In August the sales of the representatives in the Western Region increased sharply from those for the preceding month, as these fi gures show:

Representative July

Sales August Sales Increase

Charles B. Brown $32,819 $33,517 $ 698

Thelma Capp 37,225 39,703 2,478

Bill E. Knauth 36,838 38,198 1,360

Table I—Worldwide Music Industry Revenues 2005–2010 (millions)

*Some data for 2005 taken from 10K and 10Q filings SOURCE: eMarketer May 2006


























Total music revenues

Total digital music revenues

Mobile music revenues

Table number and title

Spanner heads

Column heads

Row heads

Footnote Source acknowledgment

• Tabular information also can be presented as (1) leaderwork (as illustrated here), or

• (2) text tabulations (as illustrated here).

Figure 13–2 Good Arrangement of the Parts of a Typical Table

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CHAPTER 13 Graphics 419

Pull Quotes The pull quote is a textual visual that is often overlooked yet extremely useful in em- phasizing key points. It is also useful when the text or content of the report does not lend itself naturally or easily to other graphics. By selecting a key sentence, copying it to a text box, enlarging it, and perhaps even enhancing it with a new font, style, or col- or, a writer can break up the visual boredom of a full page or screen of text. Drawing software lets users easily wrap text around shapes as well as along curves and irregular lines. Figure 13–3 shows an example that is simple yet effective in both drawing the reader’s attention to a key point and adding visual interest to a page.

Bullet Lists Bullet lists are listings of points arranged with bullets (•) to set them off. These lists can have a title that covers all the points, or they can appear without titles, as they ap- pear at various places in this book. When you use this arrangement, make the points grammatically parallel. If the points have subparts, use sub-bullets for them. Make the sub-bullets different by color, size, shape, or weight. Darts, check marks, squares, or triangles can be used for the secondary bullets.

Flowcharts and Process Charts If you have studied business management, you know that administrators use a variety of specialized charts in their work. Often these charts are a part of the information presented in reports. Perhaps the most common of these is the organization chart (see Figure 13–4). These charts show hierarchy of positions, divisions, departments, and such in an organization. Gantt charts are graphic presentations that show planning and

• Pull quotes emphasize key concepts.

• Bullet lists show points set off by a bullet symbol.

Figure 13–3

Illustration of a Pull Quote

SOURCE: Harvard Business Review Dec. 2005: 90.

• Various specialized management charts are useful in reports—for example, organization charts, Gantt charts, and fl owcharts.

Lesikar−Flatley−Rentz: Business Communication: Making Connections in a Digital World, 11th Edition

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420 PART 4 Fundamentals of Report Writing

Rosemary Lenaghan Stephen Acord Lydia Liedman

Mary Sanchez Megan O'Conner Paul Wong

Marie Murphy Eulalia Gomez

Terrance Lenaghan Matthew Gregory Kathleen Meersman Cecelia Kubicek Troy Payton

Zeke Smith Emma York Marina Munson Janet Wingler

Carolynn Workman Controller

Jane Adami VP. R&D

Robert Edwards VP. Marketing

Chris VanLerBerghe Executive Assistant

Diana Chan President

Chart 4 Organization Chart for the U.S. Corporate Office of Thankyoutoo.com, 2007

Carol Acord VP. PR

Owen Smith VP. MIS

Figure 13–4 Illustration of an Organization Chart

Figure 13–5 Illustration of a Flowchart

Search with Google

Follow link to source

Revise search strategy

Evaluate credibility of


Potential sources?

Useful source?







Potential sources?

Add to Unique Favorites folder

End search

Enough sources?

Go to other


Select topic

Figure 5 The Process of Searching with Google



Lesikar−Flatley−Rentz: Business Communication: Making Connections in a Digital World, 11th Edition

IV. Fundamentals of Report Writing

13. Graphics © The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2008

CHAPTER 13 Graphics 421

scheduling activities. As the word implies, a fl owchart (see Figure 13–5) shows the sequence of activities in a process. Traditionally, fl owcharts use specifi c designs and symbols to show process variations. A variation of the organization and fl owchart is the decision tree. This chart helps one follow a path to an appropriate decision. You can easily construct these charts with presentation and drawing software.

CONSTRUCTING VISUAL GRAPHICS The truly visual types of graphics include a variety of forms: charts and illustrations. Charts are graphics built with raw data and include bar, pie, and line charts and all their variations and combinations. Illustrations includes maps, diagrams, drawings, photos, cartoons, and such.

Bar and Column Charts Simple bar and column charts compare differences in quantities by differences in the lengths of the bars representing those quantities. You should use them primarily to show comparisons of quantity changes at a moment in time. As shown in Figure 13–6, the main parts of the bar chart are the bars and the grid (the fi eld on which the bars are placed). The bars, which may be arranged horizontally or vertically (also called a column chart), should be of equal width. You should identify each bar or column, usually with a caption at the left or bottom. The grid (fi eld) on which the bars are placed is usually needed to show the magnitudes of the bars, and the units (dollars, pounds, miles, and such) are identifi ed by the scale caption below. When you need to compare quantities of two or three different values in one chart, you can use a clustered (or multiple) bar chart. Cross-hatching, colors, or the like on the bars distinguish the different kinds of information (see Figure 13–7). Somewhere within the chart, a legend (explanation) gives a key to the differences in the bars. Because clustered bar charts …