Advanced Business Writing
Presentation and Graphics


Visuals that display graphics and data on presentation charts should be like illustrations in children's stories. They don't tell the whole story, but they do show part of it, and they keep people interested. To keep graphics and data interesting and clear, use three steps:

1. Choose the right graphic.
2. Support it with words.
3. Keep it simple.

Choose the right graphic (and do the graphic right).

To show change over time:

use a Column Chart

 • Use no more than 7 data points.
 • Make spaces smaller than column width.
 • Put scale on a side or values on tops.

To show change over time:

use a Line Chart

 • Use instead of column chart when there are more than 7 data points.
 • Make data lines thick, the baseline medium, and grid lines thin.
 • If there are more than 5 data lines, split into multiple charts.

Support it with words.

 • Make labels easy to read.
Place them horizontally, even if you must shrink a graphic. When possible, use full words instead of abbreviations

 • Make the headline refer to the graphic.
Write the chart headline as if it were the heading of a newspaper article. Use dynamic words to summarize the main message of the chart, which should be about, or supported by, the graphic.

Keep it simple.

 • Make one point per chart.
Omit extra data, graphics, or fonts that might distract the audience.

 • Omit superfluous details.
Trim numbers to 2 or 3 significant digits. Avoid unnecessary grid lines, colors, and decorations.

Lesson: Change
Module: Presentation and Graphics
Course: Advanced Business Writing