Editing for fabulous figures

Editors focus on achieving clear communication, whether it is text, tables or figures. Non-text elements such as tables and figures can supplement or summarise text and make your document easier to read and your message easier to follow. For figures, you may need to try a few different formats to see which one works best for your data and message.

Tips for designing figures

  • Use the right format, size and layout for the purpose of the figure.
  • Try to match the orientation of the main text, and avoid landscape figure orientation in a portrait layout.
  • Use a consistent style of fonts, sizes and colours across multiple figures.
  • Take care that colours, shadings and lines used in figures are distinct and legible, being aware of colour or black and white printing.
  • Check any significant symbols or arrow heads are large enough to be clearly visible.
  • Spell check all text.

Tips for labelling figures

  • Include a detailed title for the figure and place the figure title below the figure. Note that a table title is placed above the table.
  • Minimise the use of abbreviations, codes, item numbers or variable names. If these are unavoidable, include a note about the full meaning.
  • Include explanatory notes for the source and date of any data in the figure.
  • Ensure any units of measurement for data are clear.

Tips for placing figures

  • Place a figure after it is first mentioned in the text.
  • Use the auto-numbering and cross-reference functions in Word to refer to the right figure number.
  • Place a figure at the end of a paragraph, not in the middle of a paragraph.
  • Use the Format – Paragraph – Keep with next function in Word to keep a figure together with its title, and the title with any notes.

Similar tips also apply to tables. Read my earlier blog on tables here.

For advice on ensuring your figures are right, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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