All these varieties of pictorial presentation have found meaningful expression in business reports and literature. Any student of communication will have to acquire a good understanding of the merits and limitations of each one of them so that the student is in a position to use the most appropriate one in any given context.
The pictorial presentation can also take the help of icons, cartoons and pictures. Furthermore, when the matter is presented in colour, innumerable options become available to the communicator.
Introducing Tables, Charts and Pictures:
It is necessary to have a clear understanding of the manner in which tables, charts and pictures are introduced in written communication. Business reports constitute an important area amenable to pictorial and graphical presentation.
In fact, in today’s business world, one can notice extensive or copious use of tables and charts in annual reports and other business reports. Apart from that, tables and charts are used extensively in brochures, sales literature, booklets, advertisements and motivational communication.
The positioning of the table or chart has to be carefully decided. In doing so, it is essential to keep in mind the value addition taking place as a result of the insertion of the table or chart.
To what extent the table or chart is substituting or complementing the written text is to be borne in mind. Tables and charts can be inserted along with the text or towards the end as annexures.
When the tables are lengthy and constitute additional information, they are carried as an annexure. The skill of the communicator, however, lies in introducing an adequate number and variety of charts, graphs and pictures along with the text in such a way that the overall impact is high.
Choosing the Right Chart:
As we have noted, there are many types of charts, graphs and pictures. Each of them has advantages or merits and limitations. Sometimes, there is scope for using any one of the two or three types of charts in the context. The business writer has to decide on the most appropriate one. In doing so, the following guidelines may be kept in view.
The appropriateness of the chart or graph would essentially depend on the context or subject covered and the target group addressed by the communicator. While tables and pictures are widely understood, certain kinds of charts, graphs and diagrams call for extra efforts, and may not go down well with the lay reader.
When the target group is the general public, and not a highly literate and well-versed section, simpler tables, charts, graphs and pictures would be appropriate.
The second important aspect relevant in choosing the right graphic is emphasis or forcefulness. A table or a chart is often used both for information and analysis. The table or chart may substitute or complement the written text.
The table, chart or picture may be in black and white or colour. It is important to choose the chart which readily brings out the core message. The size of the bar chart, for example, readily brings out the growth aspect.
Similarly, the line graph clearly brings out movement or fluctuation. The pie chart gives the share of each component in the table. Choose the graphic that is relevant to show those areas that need emphasis.
Pictures often carry more appeal than words. A good picture appeals to all sections of people—illiterate, semi-literate and highly literate. A good chart or table rivets attention and gets registered in the mind of the reader.
When tables, charts and graphs are used effectively, the reader is in a position to remember the message much better. The positioning of the image should also be very appropriate. It should be introduced at the right context in the text.
Equally important, it should have the right size and frequency to enhance the value of the written text. Too frequent and repetitive graphics, however, have to be avoided. Well-inserted tables and charts also serve well in breaking the monotony of text reading.
Yet another point to be noted while choosing the right graphic is the specific nature of the subject matter. When the matter is of a technical or scientific nature, and the literature is meant for research organizations, professional or industrial establishments, relevant details will have to be covered.
Keeping in view the target sections, more complex charts, graphs, diagrams and drawings may have to be used.
Attention to Details:
In presenting tables, charts and graphs, due attention should be given to all the relevant details which make the message clear and complete. Every table and chart should have a clear title or narration.
The quantity and amount have to be clearly mentioned. Decimal points need to be given only where relevant. Similarly, rounding off figures should be considered whenever there is no need to be very precise.
For example, when we refer to the growth in bank deposits, it may not be necessary to say that the deposits grew from Rs 48,918.6 crore in March 2001 to Rs 51,641.8 crore in March 2002.
On the other hand, it would be appropriate to say that the deposit growth of the bank improved from 13.6 per cent in 2000-01 to 18.8 per cent in 2001-02. Such attention to detail makes the table or chart more reader friendly.
Similarly, charts, graphs and maps will have to be drawn to scale, and the scale (key) should be mentioned at the bottom. Yet another detail that needs much attention is the source of the data. The source of the data has to be clearly mentioned at the bottom of the table. For example,
1. Source Annual Reports of Public Sector Banks.
2 Source Report on the Trend and Progress of Banking in India, RBI, June 2002.
3. Source Annual Report 2001-02, Coffee Board.
Omission of relevant details like quality, amount and period may often render the entire table or chart meaningless. Similarly, mention of the source will indicate the authenticity or reliability of the data and will also suggest whether it is based on primary or secondary sources of data.
Properly introduced charts, graphs, pictures and other graphics add value to the text and make the business reports and other literature more reader friendly. Specific advantages of such graphics are given below:
1. They break monotony.
2 They simplify and amplify facts and figures.
3. They strengthen the memory and improve recall value.
4. They bring out relativity and time values with greater clarity.
5. They add colour and variety to presentation.
6. They provide scope for creativity in communication.
In the following paragraphs, we will be discussing the uses of various tables, charts and graphics with the help of illustrations.