Is This Graphic Really Fantastic?

By Kaylee Burriss

Well, no, not always. Choosing the wrong graphics can distract from your message. When adding graphics to your writing and presentations it is important to make sure that the graphics are enhancing your message. There are also several different kinds of graphics that can be used and it is important to choose the one that best fits your message. The most used graphics are images and graphs.

CameraImages are easier to use in all forms of writing, while graphs are most useful when displaying lots of numbers about a specific topic. When selecting an image for a paper or presentation it is important that the image is not distracting and that the reader will still be more interested in the content that you are sharing than the image. Images with too many details, a lot of bright colors, or extra information that is irrelevant to your topic can all lead to your readers being distracted. The best images will be simple while still fitting in with the content in your writing or presentation.

When using graphs it is important to use a format that shows your data in a relevant way.  It is important that the type of graph you use makes sense for your data. For instance, using a pie chart for data that is not measured in a percentage does not make sense. In the first image above, Smartphone Ownership, it is easy to see how much smartphone sales have increased over time just based on the sizes of the bars. By adding the percentage values on top of these bars, anyone who wants more specific information, such as how much sales increased from 2012 to 2013 it is easy to find this information.

The second image above, Time Spent on Mobile Devices, is confusing. This graph compares the average usage of smartphones in the first quarter of 2013 and 2014, then switches to using the fourth quarter for 2015 and 2016. It would be easy to assume that based on this graph Americans were using their mobile phone twice as much in 2016 than they were in 2013, but since the entire year is not being represented in either case there is no way to know if this is really true.

Regardless of what kind of graphic you are using it is important to remember that you need the graph or image to enhance what you’re saying; not distract from the message you are attempting to convey to your readers or listeners.

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