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How to make your graphs and charts come alive!

Illustrate Your Ideas

It’s always been important to illustrate your ideas in writing to make points clear. Can you picture a children’s book with no illustrations? And who hasn’t attended a business meeting or seminar where the uninspired (or inexperienced) presenter posted slides that he or she then read verbatim?

To illustrate your ideas in business writing, you use examples, charts, images or infographics to help explain or emphasize your point. Let’s look at a few examples.

Advertising naturally comes to mind. Imagine selling the cool refreshment of a soda, sparkling water or beer without the visual of the beverage pouring over ice in a glass, or into a frosty mug, along with accompanying sound. Still, does that mean you would find it refreshing? The advertiser shows someone viewers can relate to enjoying the beverage to bring home the message.

If you’ve ever downloaded a recipe online, you know how much the image affects your choice. Most bloggers include several images, illustrating the ingredients, how they combine them, and the final dish. You can use the same concepts for your business writing.

Try these tips and ideas for using examples and illustrations in your writing:

  • List or graph a few statistics. But don’t overdo it. Choose the most relevant and move on to your key point.

  • Use a real (or composite) example. If your company has added an inexpensive version of your product to meet the needs of customers who need or want the product but can’t afford the high-end version, talk about one of these customers. Use information from survey or focus group feedback, or as a composite of your target base. The example can help rally your staff around the changes and challenges of manufacturing, selling and supporting the new product.

  • Relate your point to everyday matters. A popular example is the “glass half-empty or half-full” idea to illustrate pessimistic vs. optimistic perspectives. Is your community near the ocean? Use coastal example. Visual and relative illustrations, even when painted with words, are most effective.

To make your examples work best for you, make sure they are:

  • Easily understood. This is especially important if the example is helping to illustrate a highly technical or abstract concept. If you want to illustrate loyalty, use an example of loyalty demonstrated, even if in another facet of life, such as from a child or friend.

  • Specific. Paint a picture with your words or visuals. For example, use a short video testimonial from a customer whose problem your service solved!

  • On the money. Don’t get so caught up in illustrating your point with fun cartoons or images that you lose the theme and key message. Tie your examples in.

  • Grab attention. Without shocking your readers or audience, an example can grab their attention. This often is effective with opening facts, statistics or illustrations and call-outs placed near important messages.

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