Book Title
M: Business Communication 3rd Edition

978-0073403229 Chapter 3 Teaching Suggestions

April 5, 2019
Part II: Chapter-by-Chapter Lecture Notes &
Chapter 3: Communicating Effectively with Visuals
Teaching Suggestions
As we look at teaching visuals, the emphasis in a business communication class should be on
their proper use and selection—not on the mechanics of constructing them. This is not to say that
mechanics are not important, but we feel that the students can learn most of the mechanics easily
from reading the text and looking at the text examples. Use and selection of visuals are more
complex subjects, which involve a depth of understanding.
For this reason, we stress that visuals have one main purpose—to help communicate information.
We stress that writers should always seek the best possible means of presenting information
visually. These points we reinforce with specific problems of the types presented in the questions
and application exercises at the end of the chapter. We suggest that you use these questions and
exercises as the heart of your classroom coverage of visuals. Our answers to these questions and
exercises appear at the end of this section of the instructors manual.
Even though the mechanics of constructing visuals are descriptive and easily understood, we
review them in class. We point out the main points of concern in constructing each type.
Likewise, we review the text coverage of how to use visuals. Because it is so often violated, we
stress the correct procedure of referring to visuals in the text. Also, we stress proper placement so
as to make the visuals useful to the reader and the interpretation needed to communicate
In summary, we cover the subject matter in two basic ways. We use lecture to review the
highlights of use and construction of visuals. We use problem work to teach the proper design
and selection of them.
Slides 3-1, 3-2, 3-3
Definition: visuals are any form of illustration—charts, line graphs, statistical maps, pie graphs,
diagrams, tables, photos, and more.
Planning the Visuals
Slide 3-4
Plan visuals after you organize the data.
Visuals serve one main purpose—to communicate the report story. They also serve specific
purposes such as to clarify, emphasize, summarize, add interest, etc. They should supplement and
complement writing. The number used depends on the nature of the content and readers needs.
Determining the General Mechanics of Construction
Slide 3-5
Effective visuals require good mechanical considerations. Following are some of the more
Slide 3-6
Size: Visuals should be the size their contents justify. They can be too small or too large. The
shape of visuals is determined by size and contents—not too tall or wide but balanced.
Slide 3-7
You should determine the orientation of the visual by considering its size and contents. Sometimes a tall
orientation (portrait) is the answer; sometimes the answer is a wide orientation (landscape). Simply
consider the logical possibilities and select the one that is most easily read.
Slide 3-8
When deciding on type, consider both style (bold or italics) and font (serif or san serif). Varying
type and size convey different meanings. Consider the medium in selecting a font. New fonts
such as Calibri and Cambria have been optimized for screen display. Be sure the style and font in
the graphic is consistent with the style and font of the report text. Avoid mixing fonts but if you
want to use more than one, pair a serif with a san serif.
Slide 3-9
Place rules and borders around visuals to help their physical appearance. Always border a small
visual; border a large visual if it needs it.
Slide 3-10
Used appropriately, color and cross-hatching help readers see comparisons and distinctions.
Research has shown that use of color improves comprehension, retention, and ease of extracting
Color adds to the attractiveness of the visual. Be careful, though, if you use color but will print
(or think your reader will print) hard copies. Unless you use a color printer, the visuals will print
in black and white and may be difficult to interpret.
Slide 3-11
Use clip art to help readers understand the message. Clip art is readily available, but good
judgment is needed to ensure that the clip art used is free of bias toward gender, race, and age.
Also, too much clip art can distract a reader from the message. Clip art that looks cheap, dated,
or cartoon-like should be avoided. Lastly, students should be reminded to get permission to use
copyrighted art.
Slide 3-12
Choose background colors, photos, and art carefully. Because colors have emotional and
cultural connotations, writers must be aware of the feelings that colors will evoke on the part of
the reader. A good strategy is to get feedback before making the graphic widely available.
Sometimes background colors, photos, and art can also interfere with reading the text.
Slide 3-13
Number all visuals in a report, except minor in-text tabulations. Consider the following
numbering schemes:
If you have many visuals in two or more categories, number each category consecutively.
Example: Table I, II . . . Table IV; Map 1 . . . 3; Chart 1, 2 . . . 6.
If you have a wide mixture of visual types, group them into two categories—tables and figures.
Example: Table I, II . . . VII; Figure (graphics other than tables) 1, 2 . . . 5.
You could use scheme #2, even if you had scheme #1 justification.
Slide 3-14
Each visual needs a title. Use the 5 Ws and 1 H to construct an appropriate title.
Who: Anderson Company
What: Distribution Costs
Where:Midwest and Eastern Sales Regions
When: 2005-2008
Why: For analysis/comparison
How: Not applicable
Title: Comparison of 2005-2008 Distribution Costs of Anderson Company for Midwest and
Eastern Sales Regions
Recent practice places titles at top of visual and in caps and lowercase type.
Traditionally, titles for tables are placed at the top in all capitals. Titles for figures are placed
beneath visual and in lower case type.
Titles should be formatted consistently.
Slide 3-15
Footnotes to visuals give explanation or elaboration. Place these explanations below the tables
or illustrations. Key them to the visual (dagger, asterisk, etc.). Source acknowledgment gives
credit to those who collected facts in the visual.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Source: Primary
Constructing Textual Graphics
Slide 3-16
Most visuals fall into one of two categories: (1) textual—predominantly text, and (2) visual
predominantly illustrations.
Slide 3-17
Textual visuals communicate by their content (words and numbers). They include tables, in-text
displays, and various non-data-driven charts.
Slide 3-18, 3-19
Visual graphics (those that communicate by picture) include two forms:
Data-generated charts—bar, pie, line charts plus variations
Artwork/photographs—maps, diagrams, drawings, cartoons, etc.
Slide 3-20
Table: an orderly arrangement of information in rows and columns.
Two types of tables exist:
General purpose—cover broad area of information (usually placed in appendix)
Special purpose—focus on specific part of information or report (placed in report text)
Tables contain the following:
Numbers and titles
Row heads—title of rows of data
Column and spanner heads—titles of columns
Footnotes—explanatory information
Source acknowledgments—where data came from
Note guidelines for good arrangement in the text.
In-text displays present data as part of texts.
Two arrangements are used:
Leader work—tabular material separated by repeated dots (leaders) with intervening spaces.
Text tabulations—simple tables, unnumbered without titles, with heads and occasional rules.
Slide 3-21
Pull quotes are useful in emphasizing key ideas while breaking up large blocks of text. They are
especially useful when content does not lend itself readily to other graphics.
Slide 3-22
Flow and Process Charts: Organization charts, Gantt charts, flowcharts, etc., are used in
reports. They communicate by their symbols and content.
Slide 3-23
Simple bar charts compare time and geographic differences through lengths of bars.
Equal-width bars arranged on a grid to show magnitude are the keys to construction.
Stacked column and bar charts show different magnitude (by column and bar lengths) and
different makeups of magnitudes (by dividing each column and bar). Color/cross-hatching is
needed to show parts of the bars.
A special form of stacked column charts compares divisions of percentages. Column lengths
are equal (100 percent), but the subdivisions of columns vary.
Slide 3-24
When you need to compare quantities of two or three different values in one chart, you can use a
clustered (or multiple) bar chart. Cross-hatching, colors, or other formatting on the bars distinguish the
different kinds of information
Slide 3-25
Bilateral column charts show plus and minus changes in magnitude.
Slide 3-26
Pictographs are column or bar charts that use columns or bars made of pictures.
Follow the rules for constructing bar charts in constructing pictographs. Two special rules are:
Make all picture units equal in size.
Select pictures/symbols that fit the data.
Slide 3-27
Pie charts show the whole of information as a pie (circle) and parts of the pie as slices.
Slices should begin at the 12 o’clock position and move clockwise in descending order. It is also
good to include percentages in or near slices.
Pie charts of varying sizes should not be used, as the eye cannot judge circle sizes correctly.
Slide 3-28
Line charts show changes in information over time.
Change in a series is shown on the vertical (y) axis and time is placed on the horizontal (x) axis.
Several series on the same chart may be shown. Generally, the maximum number is five to eight,
but use of color enables readers to follow more lines easily and accurately when needed.
Slide 3-29
An area chart (surface chart) shows parts of a series. The top line shows the total with the
largest to the smallest part beneath that line.
Slide 3-30
In a scatter diagram, data is plotted on the x- and y-axes, but the points or clusters of points
reveal the information rather than a line drawn through them. The points show the direction and
strength of paired values.
Slide 3-31
Maps communicate quantitative as well as physical information.
Slide 3-32
Combination charts allow readers to see relationships between different kinds of data.
Slide 3-33
Three-dimensional graphs should be used when more than two variables are used. They are
useful with large data sets. Today’s technology lets users rotate them to get different perspectives
of the data.
Slide 3-34
Photographs can be used to document things and events, or they can be used as a visual
metaphor for concepts or abstract ideas. And they are easy to take or obtain. Advertising agencies
and other communication professionals use sites like Gettyimages.com to find and purchase
images for documents and campaigns.
Slide 3-35
Other graphics: Diagrams, drawings, icons, cartoons, video clips and animations are helpful to
illustrate some reports.
Slide 3-36, 3-37, 3-38
Visual Integrity
Business writers are ethically bound to present data in ways their readers can extract meaning
easily and accurately.
Taking care to avoid three common errors is important.
Errors of scale—size, distortion, and zero points
Errors of format—chart type, grids and shading, typeface, labels
Errors of content—framing, empathy
Placing and Interpreting Graphics
Slide 3-39
Place graphics as near as possible to the text coverage of the graphic’s contents.
If the graphic is small (less than one page), place it within text layout after first reference to it.
If the graphic is large (one page), place it on the page following the first reference to it.
Place graphics in the appendix if they do not directly support the text. Do not force readers to flip
to an appendix to see graphics that should support textual analysis. Omit graphics that serve no
useful purpose.
Tie text and graphics together by incidental, subordinate references to graphics. Let the main part
of the sentence tell something about the graphic.
Interpret the graphic for the reader. Once way is to use the GEE strategy—state a generalization,
provide an example, and state any exception(s).
Slide 3-40
You can use this quote from Yale professor and graphics authority Edward Tufte to close the
presentation with an emphasis on well-designed and simple graphics. Tufte’s design concepts are
excellent supplements to a discussion on visuals.