Types of Graphics

Before getting into details on creating, formatting, and incorporating graphics, consider the types and their functions. You can use graphics to represent the following elements in your writing:

  • Objects — If you’re describing a fuel-injection system, you’ll probably need a drawing or diagram of the thing. If you are explaining how to graft a fruit tree, you’ll need some illustrations of how that task is done. Photographs, drawings, diagrams, maps, and schematics are the types of graphics that show objects.
  • Numbers — If you’re discussing the rising cost of housing in Vancouver, you could use a table with the columns being for five-year periods since 1970; the rows could be for different types of housing. You could show the same data in the form of bar charts, pie charts, or line graphs. Tables, bar charts, pie charts, and line graphs are some of the principal ways to show numerical data.
  • Concepts — If you want to show how your company is organized, such as the relationships of the different departments and officials, you could set up an organization chart, which is boxes and circles connected with lines showing how everything is hierarchically arranged and related. This would be an example of a graphic for a concept; this type depicts nonphysical, conceptual things and their relationships.
  • Words — Graphics can be used to depict words. You’ve probably noticed how some textbooks may put key definitions in a box, maybe with different colour in the background. The same can be done with key points or extended examples.

Creating Accessible Graphics

Graphics are a key way to persuade and inform your audience, so you’ll want to make sure that everyone can benefit from them. If you haven’t written alt text for your photos, for example, someone using a screen reader couldn’t understand them. Choosing the wrong colour palate would make it hard for someone who’s colourblind (or who’s viewing the material in black and white) to understand your graphics. Choosing a colour that has a negative association in another culture might also give readers a negative impression of your graphics.

Karwai Pun, who works for the U.K. Home Office, has created a series of posters to show how to design accessible graphics. You’ll notice that a lot of the advice works for all users. Take a moment to scroll through these graphics and see how you can apply what you’ve learned when creating charts and graphs in the rest of the chapter.



This Do’s And Don’ts Of Designing Accessible Services page also contains plain text versions of the posters.


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Business Writing For Everyone Copyright © 2021 by Arley Cruthers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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