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Match graphics to your message

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, use visuals to enhance your data. Here are some ways to make your graphics more effective:

Data table: Emphasizes precise numbers. Use decimals instead of fractions. Set the numbers so they are easy to scan vertically, rather than horizontally.

Pie chart: Shows parts of a whole that add up to 100 percent, such as budget categories or poll answers. Follow these tips:
  • Limit the chart to six or eight slices, combining small categories under an "other" heading with a footnote explaining details.
  • Start the largest segment at the 12 o'clock position, and put the slices in order of decreasing size. Pie charts are less useful when the categories are close in size.
  • Be careful how colors affect the overall impression. For example, a large segment in a dark color will appear smaller than if it is in a light color.
Bar graph: Shows comparisons, as in last year's sales versus this year's. Make each bar's width equal, but make the spacing between bars wider or narrower.

Line graph: Shows trends over time, but avoid plotting more than three per graph, particularly if they cross. Format the lines to distinguish differences, either by the type of line or the symbol used for each data point. 'Point and click' to help readers navigate reports

When formatting a lengthy report, include a table of contents that leads readers to each section. When preparing a Web document, use the table of contents as a set of hyperlinks viewers can navigate with. Here's how to proceed:
  • List the contents by section or chapter number and title, followed by the page number. Include a leader (a line or a row of dots) between them to guide the readers' eyes to the correct page number.
  • List subsections when the major sections contain at least two divisions. Indent the subsection titles and use a different typeface to indicate their relative importance. For example, capitalize the initial letter of each word and format the chapter titles in boldface and the subheadings in italic.
  • Create a separate listing of illustrations and their page numbers, when the report includes vital tables and graphics.
Producing well-organized and professional quality reports really is as simple as "point and click."

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