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Mahenge, W

An Overview

These days it is unimaginable that a technical

report or article can be written without some


form of graphic display to support the text.
With the advent of the digital age
incorporating images in a written report is as
easy as clicking the mouse a few times

DEFINITIONS
A visual/graphic aid refers to a text/figure that

helps you or the reader to better understand


the text visually. So features such as tables,
charts, timelines, captions, etc.

Visuals arouse reader


immediate
interest.

Because many readers are visually oriented,


visuals unlock doors of meaning. Readers who
place great emphasis on visual thinking will
pay special attention to the visuals. Visuals
catch the readers eye quickly by setting
important information apart and by giving
them relief from looking at sentences and
paragraphs. Because of their size, shape,
colour and arrangement, visuals are dramatic
and maintain reader interest.

Visuals increase reader


understanding by simplifying
A visual shows ideas whereas a verbal
concepts.

description only tells them. Visuals are


especially important and helpful if you have to
explain a technical process to a nonspecialist
audience. Moreover, visuals can simplify
densely packed statistical data, making a
complex set of numbers easier to
comprehend. Visuals help readers see
percentages, trends, comparisons and
contrasts.

Contd
Visuals are especially important for non-

native speakers of a language and


multicultural audiences.
Visuals speak a universal language and so can
readily be understood. Because visuals pose
fewer problems in interpretation, they can
help reduce ambiguities and
misunderstanding.

Contd
Visuals condense and summarize a large

quantity of information into a relatively


small space. The saying, A picture says a
thousand words, is true. Enormous amounts
of statistical or financial data, over many
weeks, months, and even years, can be
incorporated concisely into one compact
visual.

Visuals emphasize key


relationships.

Through their arrangement and form, visuals


quickly show contrasts, similarities, growth
rates, downward and upward movements and
fluctuations in time, money and space. Pie
and bar charts, for example, show
relationships of parts to the whole, and an
organizational chart can graphically display
the hierarchy and departments of a company
or agency.

Visuals are highly


persuasive.
Placed in appropriate sections of a document,
visuals can capture the essence of ideas to
convince a reader to buy our products or
services or to accept our points of view. A
visual can graphically display, explain, and
reinforce the benefits and opportunities of
plan we are advocating. Readers are far more
likely to recall the visual than they might be a
verbal description or summary of it.

Characteristics of
Effective
Visuals

Visual aids are useful when selected and


presented correctly. Here are suggestions for
choosing effective visuals.

Inserting Visuals
Appropriately.

Visuals are best when placed as close as


possible to the first mention of them in the
text and are most effective at either the top of
bottom of a page. If the visual is small
enough, it should be inserted directly in the
text rather than on a separate page.

Identifying and citing the


sources of visuals.
Professional visual aids have identifying

elements within a caption (title) that indicated


the subject or that explains what the visual
illustrates. (e.g. Exhibit 1: Hotel Occupancy
January March 2000). A different typeface
and size in the title makes the visuals stand
out. Credit to sources of visuals is credited in a
simple statement or in in-text citations.

Considering how a
specific
visual
will
help
What the reader needs to know visually, what
readers.
type of visual will best meet the readers

needs, and how the visual can be created


(scanned, imported, drawn) help us determine
what will be included in visuals.

Inserting Visuals
Appropriately.

Visuals are best when placed as close as


possible to the first mention of them in the
text and are most effective at either the top of
bottom of a page. If the visual is small
enough, it should be inserted directly in the
text rather than on a separate page.

Identifying and citing the


sources
of
visuals.

Professional visual aids have identifying


elements within a caption (title) that indicated
the subject or that explains what the visual
illustrates. (e.g. Exhibit 1: Hotel Occupancy
January March 2000). A different typeface
and size in the title makes the visuals stand
out. Credit to sources of visuals is credited in a
simple statement or in in-text citations.

Using high quality


visuals.
Visuals should be clear, easy to read, and
relevant. Visuals that are of poor quality (too
small, done in pencil, crooked lines) can
actually create a poor impression of the report
and upon us as professionals.

Helping the reader


connect
the
visuals
to
By indicating within the text exactly when the
the
text.
reader
should look at the visual (usually by
the statement See Fig. 1, for example), the
visual has a greater impact on the reader.
Readers should be told where visuals can be
found (below, on the following page, to
the right, at the bottom of page 3.)

Generally
Visuals should not be distorted for emphasis

or decoration. They should avoid


discrimination and stereotypes (such as using
pictures of a workforce that excludes female
employees)

When to use graphics?


you are using to many words to explain

something
you are presenting trends or a lot of
numerical data
you are doing a comparison over many
categories

Graphic/visual aids
Graphics can be used to represent the

following elements in your technical writing:

Real things (Objects)


- If you want to describe how any piece of

equipment or machinery works, you'll do a


much better job if you provide a drawing or
diagram. Any explanation will benefit from an
illustration of how that particular task is done.
Photographs, drawings, diagrams, and
schematics are the types of graphics that
show objects.

Numbers
Tables, bar charts, pie charts, and line graphs

are some of the principal ways to show


numerical data. If you're discussing the rising
cost of cars in Singapore, you could use a
table with the columns for the different time
periods; and the rows for different types of
cars. You could show the same data in the
form of bar charts, pie charts, or line graphs.

Instructions
When giving complex instructions or

explaining a process consider using a


flowchart. It simplifies the process and the
understanding of the instructions

Choices
When submitting a proposal,

recommendation, or evaluation report,


photographs are a good visual aid to use. For
example, if you are recommending a one
building site over another, or one machine
over another, include photos of the two (or
more) alternatives

Descriptions
When giving descriptions, you would also

want to use pictures or drawings. Simple


drawings (often called line drawings because
they use just lines, without other details such
as shading) are the most common. They
simplify the situation and the objects so that
the reader can focus on the key details. This is
done by using tools such as shading and
depth perspectives.

TYPES
Tables

Graphs
Charts
Drawings
Photographs
Diagrams
Maps

Tables
Tables are those rows and columns of
numbers and, sometimes, words. They allow
rapid access to information and comparison of
information. Of course, tables are not
necessarily the most vivid or dramatic means
of showing trends or relationships between
data
See example below

Uses for tables.


The biggest use of tables is for numerical

data. Imagine that you are comparing


different models of coffee makers. All
specifications, whether they are price or
physical characteristics such as height, depth,
length, weight, and so on are perfect for a
table.
Tables can be simple or complex

Graphs
These are
Line graphs
Bar graphs

Example of a Simple Bar


Simple Bar graph to show Electricity Production in
Graph
Tanzania

Source:

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/tanzania/electricityproduction-kwh-wb-data.html

Charts
A chart is a graphical representation of data, in which "the
data is represented by symbols, such as bars in a bar chart,
lines in a line chart, or slices in a pie chart

A histogram consists of tabular frequencies, shown as

adjacent rectangles, erected over discrete intervals


(bins), with an area equal to the frequency of the
observations in the interval.
A bar chart is a chart with rectangular bars with
lengths proportional to the values that they represent.
The bars can be plotted vertically or horizontally.
A pie chart shows percentage values as a slice of a pie.
A line chart is a two-dimensional scatterplot of ordered
observations where the observations are connected
following their order

A histogram consists of tabular frequencies, shown as

adjacent rectangles, erected over discrete intervals


(bins), with an area equal to the frequency of the
observations in the interval.
A bar chart is a chart with rectangular bars with
lengths proportional to the values that they represent.
The bars can be plotted vertically or horizontally.
A pie chart shows percentage values as a slice of a
pie.
A line chart is a two-dimensional scatter plot of
ordered observations where the observations are
connected following their order

A pie chart
A pie chart (or a circle graph) is a circular

chart divided into sectors, illustrating


numerical proportion. In a pie chart, the arc
length of each sector (and consequently its
central angle and area), is proportional to the
quantity it represents. While it is named for its
resemblance to a pie which has been sliced,
there are variations on the way it can be
presented.

A pie chart showing the sources of Electricity

in Tanzania

Source:

Drawings

Photographs

diagrams
A diagram of a scaford

Maps

In

Oral Presentations, Visual Aids...

Strengthen the clarity of the speakers message


Increase the interest of the speakers

information
Make a speakers message easier for listeners
to retain
Enhance the speakers credibility
Can improve the speakers persuasion
Helps combat stage fright

Source:
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