Tables, Graphs, and Art
The problems that copyeditors encounter in handling tables, graphs, and art depend on how well the author understands the construction of these elements and on how much care the author has taken in their preparation. Ideally, tables and graphs offer an efficient way to present a large amount of information, most often numerical data. And various types of art—line drawings, maps, charts, photographs—can be used to present information or to provide ornamentation.
However, because tables, graphs, and art are more expensive to produce than running text, most publishers ask authors to exercise some restraint, with the number and complexity of these items depending on the nature of the project. Although a field guide to Pacific coast birds, for example, will contain many illustrations (line drawings, black-and-white photographs, color photographs, and maps), the biography of an ornithologist may have no illustrations or just a handful of photographs.
The two questions a copyeditor should always ask about any table, graph, chart, map, or photograph are: What specific purpose is this item intended to serve? and Is this particular item the best way to serve that purpose? You must be able to answer these questions in order to correctly handle the item. You need not, however, concern yourself with the technical quality of an illustration; the publisher's production staff will evaluate that. The production staff will also arrange to have charts or maps redrawn by graphic artists.