several important functions in your documents:
- Help readers locate key parts of a device or tool
- Demonstrate an action (by using arrows) (check the directions for
making an origami
- Show the desired result (see, for instance, the correct and incorrect
ways to put
nocks on a bow)
- Outline a process (see the EPA's diagram of the
In addition, photographs can play an important visual role by showing
important items, places, or people, and by giving readers a sense of
To make your illustrations effective, keep the following guidelines
Keep illustrations close to the relevant text - In printed
documents, keep them on the same page, if possible, or on a facing
page. Avoid forcing readers to flip back and forth.
Number and label figures so that you can refer to them easily.
Remember: figure titles appear below the illustration (table titles,
on the other hand, appear above the table).
Label important parts of the drawing - These labels are
termed "callouts." In general, the following standards
To minimize clutter/chaos, avoid crossing lines from different
Align the labels whenever possible.
Label the drawing directly, rather than using symbols and providing
Reference the illustration in the text - In other words,
don't just drop the illustration onto the page and expect the reader
to refer to it. Include language like "as shown in Figure 4-3,"
or "Refer to Figure 2-8 for help locating the flimflam,"
or "Figure 4-2 illustrates the relationship between the widget
and the whatsit" followed by the appropriate drawing.
Show only as much of a particular illustratation as necessary
- Providing too much information can either confuse readers or simply
take up too much space, making the important part of the illustration
too small to be useful. Note, for instance, how the directions for
corners on a bed show only corner, not the whole bed.
- Choose an appropriate style for the illustration - The illustration
should help clarify a point for the reader, so you keep it
as clear and uncluttered as possible. In general, you can use one
of 4 basic types:
In addition, if you are describing or writing instructions for
software, you can take advantage of screen shots.
shots typically appear in software manuals; the easiest way
to take a picture of something on your screen by pressing the
Print Screen key on your keyboard, then pasting the image into
Paint or Microsoft Word (you can then crop or edit the image as
needed). The two most common tools on the market for screen captures
(both about ~$100 each).