Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kerrilynn M's Using Visuals in Professional Documents

Using visuals in professional writing can earn an employee points on their report, but can hurt them as well. There are many different uses for visuals in writing, to guide readers, to clarify, to enhance and to grab attention. Writers need to beware however, because there are many technicalities when it comes to adding visuals to a report.

When using images in a professional document, as the writer you must ensure the images establish the sense of professionalism that you wish to portray. There are different types of images that may be used throughout the document.

  • Using Color: Many people believe professional is black and white and nothing else. Using color enhances presentations when it is used effectively. Color can be used to draw attention, to organize or identify parts of a presentation, or to simply make it look better. Make sure that you are using the right colors for the right purposes, for example, warm colors draw attention. To add to that, colors can change, or enhance a mood. Red is a color that is known to be associated with anger. For more information on using color in professional documents take a look at the power point provided by Owl at Purdue.

  • Icons: Icons are used to trigger the reader’s mind to think about what the writer wishes them to think about. For example, a logo. A logo is a small visual that not only is a symbol representing an idea, but it will most likely remain in the readers’ memory for a long time.

  • Graphs, Charts and Tables: These types of visuals are used in more formal presentations. If your task as a writer is to portray numbers, and figures, then a graph is the best way to go. It is complicated for both a writer and a reader to follow a detailed narrative about this years budget compared to the last ten years. It is much easier and more organized to make a graph portraying this information. There are number of graphs, charts and tables to choose from. It all depends on what type of information you are working with. For example, a pie chart is used to visualize how much of something was spread out in certain areas. A good example of this is a budget again, one splits their income to pay all their bills, certain percentages of the income goes to different areas and a pie chart adequately displays those numerics. For help on constructing graphs check out the YouTube videos posted at the bottom of the page. Also, this is a link to a site that gives examples of graphs, and explains the differences between them.

  • Photographs: Photographs are actually used a lot on professional reports. Everyone has seen photographs in report at one time, for example instructions for putting a shelf together. Many companies take pictures of the actual steps for the reader/buyer to follow.

  • Videos, and Animation: For online viewing, as a writer you may want to include videos and/or animation. Videos, like photographs may be used for many things. Videos can give instruction, guidance, explain more thoroughly, or even entertain. Animation accomplishes much of the same tasks, but is mostly used for showing things that are non existent.

It is crucial to use caution when you are using images or illustration in a professional document. Make sure that you are using them tastefully; do not overwhelm your reader with pointless pictures. To add to that, if a graph is used, be sure it is the correct graph, or the information may be misunderstood by the reader. Most of all, do not forget that you are writing this document for professional purposes. Comedic images and so forth may not be appropriate. It is ok to digress from the old black and white once in a while!


Dobrin, Sidney I., Christian R. Weisser, and Christopher J. Keller. Technical Communication in the 21st Century. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2007


  1. The videos are great! I'm lost when it comes to Word 07. The videos made it seem easy to do. Also, I didnt know visuals can be unprofessional. I thought people just did it when they had to and it was all okay.

  2. I like your blog this week, this is great information on how to use visuals in professional documents correctly. I also think that the videos helped a lot and gave further explanation about the topic.

  3. Manny, normally visuals are professional, but they may tend to be over the top, or used in the wrong format (graphs) so a lot of attention needs to go into it. Just be sure they are not just innappropriate for the work place as well. Thanks for the post!

  4. Whenever someone shows a video during a presentation, it grabs my attention immediately. Videos are sometimes entertaining and much easier to understand than when someone is trying to explain it to you. Good job on the post.