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A dot chart shows distributions or correlation.

 Figure 9: Sales Rep/Sales Comparison

Source: Sales by Force: How to Sell Anyone Anything by Donna L. Shaw, 1932. Printed with permission.


Photographs can show an item in use and create a sense of authenticity, and drawings show dimensions and can emphasize detail.

 Figure 10: Writing Center Photograph


Source: Donna Shaw, Oregon State University, Writing Center

 Figure 11: Example of a Drawing

Source: Microsoft clip art.

 Maps emphasize location.

Figure 12: Example of a Map

Source: Microsoft clip art. 

Gannt charts illustrate time lines for proposals and projects.

Figure 13: Time Line for Project Component Completion

Source: Sales by Force: How to Sell Anyone Anything by Donna L. Shaw, 1932. Printed with permission.

 Some Rules of Thumb:

In a document, refer to visuals with their titles and numbers: Table 1. How the Sales Staff Allocates Its Time or Figure 3. The Rising Cost of Mistakes. Capitalize the word Figure, Table, Chart, etc. Under the visual include information about the source of the data used in the visual and any notes.

When creating tables, use common, understandable units and round off to simplify the data. Provide column and row totals or averages when relevant. Put the items you want your readers to compare in columns rather than in rows to help with mental subtraction and division. When you have many rows, shade alternate rows to help your reader line up items correctly.

When creating a pie chart, start at 12 o'clock with the largest percentage or the percentage you want to focus on. Make the chart a perfect circle; perspective circles can distort data. Try to limit the number of wedges to no more than seven. Label the wedges outside the circle; internal labels are very hard to read.

Bar charts should have the bars ordered by logic or chronology. Put the bars close enough together to make comparisons easy. Label both horizontal and vertical axes. You can label the bars either in the inside or on the outside. Make all bars the same width and use different colors only when the bars are representing different things. Avoid using perspective; perspective makes the values harder to read.

Line graphs should have both horizontal and vertical axes labeled. When time is a variable, make it the horizontal axis. Try to avoid more than three different lines on a graph. Avoid perspective.

Dot charts show correlation and large data sets. Label both axes. Keep the dots fairly small.

Color is often unnecessary in maps. Label the elements that readers must identify. Avoid using perspective; it makes the values and locations hard to read.

Gannt charts are often used in proposals. Customarily, bars are filled in when a task is completed, red outlines indicate critical activities that must be completed on time, and diamonds or other characters indicate progress reports, major achievements, or other accomplishments.

Be sure to refer to every visual in your text and embed your visual in the text as close to the reference as you can. You may summarize the main point of the visual in your text, but you must not repeat the visual's data (to do so makes the visual redundant and unnecessary). How much you discuss the visual depends upon your audience, the complexity of the visual, and the importance of the point it makes.



Proposals come under many different guises.  They range from casual, one-page memos to multiple-volume, lengthy tomes that are hundreds of pages long.  Usually a proposal is a document written by a person, business, or agency who wishes to perform a job or solve a problem for another person, business, or agency and receive funding or money for the proposed task. Despite the differences, though, all proposals have one thing in common; they are all suggest performing or make a request to perform a particular task or project. 

Quite often proposals are written in response to a formal or casual request--an RFP (request for proposals).  The government and funding agencies frequently publish formal RFPs.  These RFPs appear whenever there is money to be distributed for research or when tasks need to be performed.  Formal RFPs give the guidelines for the finished proposal, telling the proposal writers what needs to be included in the proposal and sometimes outline the proposal's format.  Proposal writers follow the guidelines and fill in the details and expenses of the job.  Sadly, many worthy proposals fail because they do not follow the published guidelines of the RFP institution.

The degree of formality of a proposal is in direct proportion to the situation that gives rise to it.  When writing a proposal, you must be very careful to write as formal and complete a proposal as the situation call for.  Incidentally, proposals are not always in response to a request; they can be originated by the proposal writer in response to an observed need.

Proposals differ from most other business and technical writing in one important way--they deal with the future and with things and conditions that do not exist.   Writing about what does not exist can be tricky.  Further complicating the difficulty of writing proposals is the additional issue that proposals must be very convincing.  Proposals must convince the reader that there is a situation or problem and that the proposal writer is the best person to solve the problem or repair the situation.   A final issue that proposal writers must face is the idea that, more often than not, proposals are legally binding offers.

Proposals, then, have the following characteristics:


  • Proposals deal with the future

  • Proposals must convince the reader that there is a problem and the writer can do something about it

  • Proposals must convince the reader that the writer is the best person to fix the problem

  • Proposals vary in length and formality

  • Proposals are often legally binding offers

  • Proposals, generally, fall into one of four types:  research, research and development, planning, sales

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