WRITING ABOUT VISUAL AIDS

WRITING ABOUT VISUAL AIDS

Although visual aids can increase the impact of a report, they can also overwhelm-and confuse a reader. Tables, and even graphs, may contain so much information that readers can interpret them in various ways – and perhaps not in the way you intended. As a report writer, you must learn how to guide your reader through your visual aids. This section gives the guidelines for writing about visual aids, how to refer clearly to visual aids, and how to tell readers what to notice.

Refer Clearly.to the Visual Aids
Refer to the visual aid by n umber. If it is several pages .away, include thepage number in your reference. You can make the references textual or parenthetical.

Textual Reference A textual reference is simply a statement in the text itself, often a subordinate clause, that calls attention to the visual aid. Parenthetical Reference The parenthetical reference names the visual in parentheses in the sentence in one of two ways: complete or abbrcvi As seen in Table 1 (p. 10)  If you look at The data In Table 1 show .

 The complete reference is used more in reports; the abbreviated in sets of instructions. In reports, use “see” and spell out “Table.” Although “Figure” or “Fig.” are both used, “Figure” is more acceptable in formal writing. The profits for the second quarter A cost analysis reveals that we must reconsider our plans for purchasing new printers (see Table 1). bIn instructions, you do not need to use “see”; you can refer to figures as “Fig.” Insert the disk into slot A (Fig. 1). Set the CPM readout (Fig. 2) before you go on to the next step.Do not capitalize “see” unless the parenthetical reference stands alone as a separate sentence. In that case, also place the period inside the parentheses. All of this data was described above. (See Tables 1 and 2.) All of this data was described above (see Tables 1 and 2).

Tell the Reader What to Notice When you discuss a visual aid, point out what the reader should look for and explain its significance. To point out an item, you simply call attention to it or name it. To explain its significance, you either give its source or discuss its implications. Examples are given in the following discussion.

Explaining a Table Table 1 in the following example is from a complex government report on the costs of having a window constructed in a wall. But the numbers can be confusing, and the important relationships are not apparent. Should we compare the cost of a 12-foot-square window ($52.20) with the cost of 12 square feet of wall ($33.72), or to some other  number or combination of numbers? Should we compare the $52.20 in the upper left-hand corner with the $216.63 in the lower right-hand corner? But why? And what would such a comparison mean? The of the table  were aware of this problem, so in {he text they pointed out which number the readers should notice and it The authors draw attention to the $18 figure in Column 1 and show its relationship first to the other figures in that column and then to the range in the “double-glazed” row. They also attempt to explain, by  the statement in parentheses, an important fact that the reader must  interpreting their data.

Acquisition Costs
Having calculated the energy costs associated with different window configurations, let us now tum to the costs of acquisition,  maintenance, and repair. The purchase and installation of  windows in a new home are generally more expensive than the costs of an equivalent area of non windowed wall. To estimate the additional acquisition costs, window costs are compared with wall costs in Table 1. This table shows that the costs of the purchase and installation of good-quality wood windows are estimated to add between $18 and $76 to initial building costs for single-glazed windows, and $48 to $216 for double-glazed windows, depending on their size. (Because windows displace portions of the wall, they raise initial building  costs by substantially less than their full purchase and installation costs.) If management devices are used, additional acquisition  costs are incurred. Costs of Venetian blinds and wooden shutters based upon averages of currently quoted prices in the Washing ton, D.C., area are given in Table 2 [not shown).

TABLE 1
Acquisition Costs 01 a Window’ ln Excess 01 the Cost 01 a No windowed Wall

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Explaining a Graph These same authors also included a complex graph (Figure 1 below) in their report. Exactly which relationship their readers should focus on is not immediately clear. Should they notice just electricity or just gJS points? Or north or south points? Should they compare N (eke) with S (gas)? And why? What do the comparisons show?

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Estimated Yearly Energy Costs with North (N) or South (S) Facing Window with Gas or Electric (Elec)
Source: Belinda Collins. et al., A New Look at Windows. Reprinted by permission
of the U.S. Department of Commerce. National Bureau of Standards. Center for
Building Technology.

‘The authors solved the problem in their discussion. In the discussion the authors first make a general point, then give a specific example. So in the paragraph discussing Part B of the graph, the second sentence points out that “costs are lowered,” and the third sentence points out an exact detail to notice – that costs are 530 lower. The $30 is the difference between N (elec) at $120 in Part A and N (elec) at $90 in Part B. Figure 1 shows the estimated yearly energy costs for the room as a function of the window. Note that on the vertical axis, or zero window area, energy costs are given for a windowless room. To determine the opeating costs attributable to just the window, the yearly operating costs for a room with a given window area must be subtracted from those for a windowless room with zero window area. Part A of Figure 1 demonstrates that, when only thermai loads are considered, estimated yearly energy costs increase for both northern and southern exposures as the size of the single-glazed window increases. A window with a northern exposure has greater energy costs, however, than one with a southern exposure, particularly when the more expensive electric heating is used. The added  energy costs for the room are as much as $20 to S25 more per year for large window areas on the north wall with electric heat than for large windows on the south with gas heat.Part B plots similar yearly energy costs for a’ room with a  double-glazed window. When double glazing is used, energy costs are lowered for both orientations, For example: double glazing lowers energy costs by about $30 per year for the largest north-facing window in the electrically heated room. The reduction is somewhat lower for the south-facing window.

SUMMARY

As a result of the impact of computers, the visual aspect of technical writing is something that all writers must master. This chapter explains how to format Pd~es to enhance the message and how to construct strong visual aids. Page formatting allows you to design a page that is easy to read, that calls attention to key items, and that helps the reader follow the contents. Writers must learn to construct head systems with various levels and to use these heads consistently throughout the document. The capabilities of the personal computer now allow the writer to design pages that incorporate element”  boldface type, various typefaces, type sizes, rules
than were eyer used in documents formatted on the must also le.un w hen to use and how to construct a wide .

aids, including tables, bar graphs, line graphs, and pie charts. Visual-aid software now enables writers to choose many attractive ways to present data.

WORKSHEET FOR FORMATTING

  • Decide on how many levels of heads you will need.
  • Select a style for each level. Choose styles that reflect the descending
    levels of heads.
  • Select outside margins.
  • Select a location and format for your page numbers.
  • Choose a method for distinguishing visuals from the texf. Will you enclose
    them in a box or use a rule above and below?
  • Determine the number of columns. Decide the amount of space between
    them.
  • Do you need to place the header or footer area?

WORKSHEET FOR VISUAL AIDS

  • Name the’audience for this visual aid.
  • What do your readers known about the topic all which this visual aid is
    based?
  • What is your goal for them after they review your visual aid?
  • Do you want them to have precise data?
  • Do you want them to get an overview of the topic?
  • Do you want them to see a picture that conveys some kind of emotional drama?
  • Choose a  for this aid:
  • Determine where you’ will place its number and title (above?
    below?).

MODELS
The following pages present the same report section for four different formats. They illustrate the variety you can use in formatting reports. Each is the result of a different style sheet.

PRINTING FEATURES

At Hobbes, we are concerned about two printing features: printing speed and automatic speed adjustment. Printing speed is the rate, measured in feet per minute, at which the system can print information clearly on a carton. This is important to Hobbes because we have an average line speed of 150 feet per minute (fpm). Therefore, a system that can print at least 150 fpm is required. Automatic speed adjustment is a feature that allows the system to automatically sense the line
speed and print accordingly. This is a desirable feature because when a speed variation occurs on the line, an operator does not have to be present to make the manual adjustment. Management has given this consecrations highest priority.
Capabilities  System. As Table 2 shows, the system has a maximum printing speed of 100 . This is less than the acceptable rate of speed required by the Hobbes system does not have an automatic speed adjustment feature see  Thus, an operator would have to be present at all times to monitor line speeds and make necessary adjustments. Spiff System. As Table 2 shows, the Spiff system has a maximum printing speed of 200 fpm. This exceeds Hobbes’s current line speed of 150 pm. The system has an automatic speed adjustment feature (see Table 2). This feature is economical because it saves time and, reduces the frequency of illegible printing on cartons. Conclusion. The Spiff system meets the requirements for printing speed and automatic adjustment. The Zorg system meets neither of

TABLE 2
Printing Features of Ink Jet Printing Systems

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Traditional Typed Page: Underlined Heads

PRINTING FEATURE$

At Hobbes, we are concerned about two printing features: printing speed and automatic speed adjustment. Printing speed is the rate, measured in feet per minute, at which the system can print information clearly on a carton. This is
important to Hobbes because we have an average line speed of 150 feet perminute  fpm). Therefore, a system that can print at least 150 tpm is required. Automatic speed adjustment is a feature that allows the system to automatically sense the line speed and print accordingly. This is a desirable feature because  when a speed variation occurs on the line, an operator does not have to be present to make the manual adjustment. Management has given this criterion second highest priority.

CAPABILITIES
Zorg System

As Table 2 shows, the Zorg system has a maximum printing speed of 100 fpm. This is less than the acceptable rate of speed required by the Hobbes Corporation. This system does not have an automatic speed adjustment feature (see Table 2). Thus, an operator would have to be present at all times to monitor line speeds and make necessary.

Spiff System

As Table 2 shows, the Spiff system has a maximum printing speed of 200 fpm. This exceeds Hobbes’s current line speed of 150 fpm. The system has an autocrat speed adjustment feature (see Table 2). This feature is economical because it saves time and reduces the frequency of illegible printing on cartons.

Conclusion
The Spiff  meets the requirements for printing’ speed and automatic adjustment.  system meets neither of these requirements.

TABLE 2

Printing Features of Ink Jet Printing ~ystems

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At Hobbes, ‘Ie are concerned about two printing features: printing speed and automatic speed adjustment. Printing speed is the rate, measured in feet per minute, at which  the system can print information clearly on a carton. This is important  Hobbes because we have an average line speed  150 feet per minute . Therefore, a system that can  at least 150  is required. Automatic speed  is a feature that allows the system to automatics: !sense the line speed and print accordingly.

TABLE 2
Printing Features of Ink Jet Printing System

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does not have the ability to print a bar code. However, an option. can be added to the system, at an additional cost of $700, to print readable bar codes (see Table 1).

Spiff System. As shown in Table 1, the basic Spiff system has the ability to print a readable bar code.  This ability is part of the system and it requires no additional investment.

Conclusion. Both systems have the ability to print a readable bar code; however, the Zorg system requires an additional expenditure for this

capability.

.TABLE 1
Printing Capability of an Ink
Jet Printing. System

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Printing Features At Hobbes, we are concerned about two printing features: printing speed and automatic speed adjustment. Printing speed is the rate, measured in feet per minute, at which the system can print information clearly on a carton. This is important to Hobbes because we have an average line speed of 150 feet per minute (fprn). Automatic speed adjustment is a feature that allows the system to automatically sense the line speed and print accordingly. Management has  given this criterionsecond highest priority. Zorg System. As Table 2 shows,
the Zorg system has a maximum printing speed of 100 fpm. This is less than the acceptable rate of speed required by the Hobbes Corporation. This system does not have an automatic speed adjustment feature (see Table 2).

Spiff System. As Table 2 shows, the Spiff system has a maximum printing speed of  00 fpm. This exceeds Hobbes’s ,current line speed of 150 fpm. The system has an automatic speed adjustment feature

TABLE 2
Printing Features of Ink Jet
Printing Systems

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EXERCISES

  1. Photocopy a table from the Statistical Abstract of the United States, available
    in your library’s reference room. Convert the data in the table into a graph that illustrates a relationship you can see in the table. Write a paragraph explaining the relationship shown in the table and another explaining the same relationship in the graph.
  2. Find a line graph and convert it to a bar graph, or vice versa. Write a brief paragraph explaining each one. Emphasize the trend in the line graph; emphasize the discrete data in the bar graph. Photocopy a table or graph, and its accompanying explanation, from a report or a journal. Bring it to class, and in small groups discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the explanations.
  3. If you have access to a computer graphics program, make several different graphs of the same data. In a brief paragraph, explain the type of reader and the situation for which each graph would be appropriate. Divide into groups of three or four, by major if possible. Select a process you are familiar with from your major or from your campus life.
  4. Possibilities include constructing a balance sheet, leveling a tripod, focusing a microscope, constructing an isometric projection, threading a film
    projector, finding a periodical in the library, or making a business plan. As a group construct a flow chart of the process. For the next class meeting each person should write a paragraph explaining the chart. Compare paragraphs within your group; then discuss the results with the class. Select one of the visual aids from  Write a brief (one to two paragraphs) news release about it for a local newspaper. Assume that you are the public relations manager in a large city government.
  5. Convert the following paragraph into a table.  Then rewrite the paragraph for your manager so that you give only the essential information. This store sells two brands of jewelry, High Fashion and Golden Moment. For each line we carry earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and pins. The High Fashion jewelry lists the following prices for these pieces, respectively:  $4.00,$7.00, $5.00, $35.00, and $8.00. The Golden Moment line lists the following prices, respectively: $8.00, $10.00, $7.00, 522.00 and $12.00. Except for the rings, High Fashion is cheaper by these amounts, respectively: $4.00, $3.00, $2.00, and $4.00. Golden Moment’s rings are $13.00 cheaper.
  6. Divide the class into three sections. Have individuals in each section convert the following numbers into visual aids. Have Section 1 make line graphs, section 2 make bar graphs, and section 3 make pie charts. Have one person from each section put their  (In the board. Discuss them for effectiveness. Here are the figures: Respondents to a survey were asked if  pay more for a tamper 8.2% said they would more: 25.8% were unwilling to pay more; 51.6% would pay $.05 more, al’.:] 14.4% would pay $.10 more.
  7. Make a pie chart about some aspect of your class. An easy topi c is the percentage of students from cities of various sizes – over 100,000, between 50,000 and 100,000, and so on. You will have to collect all the data and compute the percentages in class. Outside of class, make a bar graph of the same data. Write a story of several paragraphs for the school newspaper, explaining the diversity or homogeneity of your class. Refer to specific parts of your visual aid.
  8. Read over the next four paragraphs from a report. Then construct a visual aid that will support the writer’s conclusion.
  9. Apple works. The Apple works reference manual is very well written, with a detailed table of contents and numerous helpful examples. It has “Apple works lips,” altering helpful hints for efficient approaches to common tasks, and “warning” messages for problem areas. For experienced users, the manual has a’list of  command shortcuts to speed up the processes.Apple includes a tutorial, which consists of a series of carefully designed, interactive learning experiences. The tutorial leads the user through the basic commands, keystrokes, and features, providing explanations and sample tasks. Packaged on two disks and covering key topics, it is designed to  allow the user to proceed at his or her own pace. Topics can be started, ,repeated, or skipped as the user sees fit.

Big worker. The Big Worker manual serves its intended purpose fairly well, with it1ew exceptions. It contains no mention Of the sample data diskette, nor does it mention that the examples shown in the manual are contalned on the sampJedata diskette. It has many boldface “remember” messages that explain what will happen if the user performs certain actions. This feature is an attempt to prevent user mistakes. Overall, its reference section contains inadequate detail and no detailed system overview. No disk tutorial is available.

 Conclusion. The documentation supplied with Apple works P-8f’ioJin all respects.

Works CITED Collins, Belinda, etal. A New LDUka/ Willdows. NBS}R 77-1388. Washington, DC: National Bureau of Standards, 197H.