Effective Writing: Improving Scientific, Technical, and Business Communication

By Christopher Turk; John Kirkman | Go to book overview

10

Choosing and using tables, illustrations and graphic presentation techniques

Visual signalling

In turning to consider the use of tables, graphs, diagrams and other illustrations in the presentation of information, we are not changing our topic. Our subject is still clear communication, and we are still discussing how to make precise, manageable statements using language. Words, graphs and drawings are all visual patterns used to symbolise or represent meaning. In both graphic statements and verbal statements, we use a variety of hieroglyphics-dots, dashes, and other marks on paper-as symbols to carry information. Words, after all, are made up of letters which are composed of combinations of lines and circles; for example, the difference between 'o', 'p', 'd', and 'b' lies only in the positioning of the line tangential to the circle. So words and drawings are not conflicting or competing modes of expression. They are, at most, extremes on a continuum, with words at one end making minimum use of the visual appearance of the signals, and with drawings and graphic presentations at the other end making maximum use of the visual appearance of the signals.

In earlier chapters, we have discussed how statements in words often cause difficulty for receivers because they contain unfamiliar vocabulary or signals, because they are too long and complex, or because they require the reader to hold in mind too many inter-related clauses and conditions. Visual statements can be difficult for the receiver for similar reasons: they may

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Effective Writing: Improving Scientific, Technical, and Business Communication
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • From the Reviews of the First Edition vi
  • Preface vii
  • About the Authors ix
  • 1 - Writing is Communicating: Revising Basic Assumptions 1
  • References 20
  • 2 - Thinking About Aim and Audience 21
  • 3 - Starting to Write: a Practical Approach 36
  • 4 - Organization and Layout of Information 44
  • References 76
  • 5 - The Use of Headings and Numbering 77
  • 6 - Algorithms for Complex Possibilities and Procedures 82
  • 7 - Style for Readability 90
  • References 117
  • 8 - Writing with a Computer 119
  • 9 - Informative Summaries 127
  • 10 - Choosing and Using Tables, Illustrations and Graphic Presentation Techniques 148
  • 11 - Writing Instructions 195
  • 12 - Writing Descriptions and Explanations 216
  • 13 - Writing Letters and Memoranda 225
  • 14 - Writing Minutes and Reports of Proceedings 240
  • 15 - Writing in Examinations 251
  • Appendix A 267
  • Appendix B 269
  • Index 273
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