Give Me a Clear Picture: Using Images in Documents

You don’t have to be a graphic artist to understand the value of graphics and visuals in a document. Images have several purposes such as–  help define terms, increase reader’s comprehension, communicate ideas, emphasize a point, provide an easy comparison, help with reader’s retention.  Each type of graphic has a distinct purpose and advantage; use these when writing your documents. We are living a visual society and images help to clarify topics. Your focus is helping the reader to comprehend what you are writing. Images are just one more tool to help communicate.

Here are some basic rules to keep in mind when using graphics and images:

  • Make sure the image or graphic is directly relevant to your work; research to find the best image.
  • Size the image appropriately. Make sure your image has appropriate spacing top and bottom, as well as, left and right.
  • Have a consistent format for your images (left justified, centered, etc.)
  • Label your images with a specific title ) and number them (for example, Figure 1. Image of an aircraft winglet).
  • Place your image directly after the referenced section in the document.
  • Cite your sources
  • Consider using a List of Illustrations section if you have a larger document and many images.

Images are now becoming essential in strong written communication. Here are some examples:

image of the page of a calendar
Timelines or calendars for describing tasks over a specific period of time
multicolored bar chart with numbers along the left side of the grid

Bar charts to show comparisons.

Circular pie chart with sections labeled as 45 percent, 20 percent, 10 percent, and 25 percent

Pie charts show a relationship to the whole.

image of a multicolumn table with numbers in it as an example of data

Tables show raw data prior to the graph.

a screen capture showing a document on a computer desktop image

Screen captures, show exactly what is happening from the author’s perspective.

A blank flow chart with boxes and arrows showing the flow of information

Flow charts show pictorially how procedures, events or other factors are related to each other.

a generic image of a floor plan with multiple rooms outlined

Floor plans show relationships between rooms and physical features in a designated space

A generic organizational chart displaying three levels of a fictional organization

Organizational charts show the relationship of positions in the company.

image of an industrial stove with text boxes and arrows pointing to the part on the image

Mechanism images show a device, instruments, or product. (General, exploded, cutaway view)