By Bill Cloud
University of North Carolina
A good map or chart:
- Is free of errors
- Is easily understood
by the readers.
- Makes good
use of its allotted space.
- Makes a clear
connection to the story before the reader reads the story.
- Includes text elements that
complement the accompanying headlines with minimum repetition.
A good map:
- Includes, in most cases, both a
compass point and a distance scale.
- Clearly labels the significant
elements on the map.
- Labels streets and other
landmarks mentioned in the story.
- Aids a reader who may go to or
pass through the area indicated.
- Omits numbers or facts that can
change quickly or belong in headlines.
A good chart:
- Presents information clearly
without wasting space.
- Shows dollar values over time that are corrected for inflation
- Accounts for changes over time
- Puts numbers into perspective.
Tips for Preventing Errors in
- Get them early, or
make sure they're started early.
- Make sure as many people as
possible, including the reporter, look at the graphic.
- Make sure you have the
supporting information available to check the graphic.
- Make sure the rim person sees
the graphic so he or she can compare the story with the graphic.
- Check the obvious; don't assume
- Have someone familiar with the
area check the map.
- Talk to the graphics department
about common mistakes graphic artists are making. Also, praise them
when they do a good job.
- Get graphics people involved
early, as the story is being planned.
- Teach copy editors a little
about making graphics so they can make one when necessary or correct a
graphic when necessary.
statistical graphics, make sure that monetary figures over a time
period reflect the effect of inflation on the value of the dollar and the effect of changes in the size of
population. Remember that per-capita figures are often better than raw
- Choose the map that best matches
the story. Remember that maps can be too simple as well as too complex.
- Make sure maps, in almost all
cases, contain a scale of miles and a compass point showing north.
- Be careful about putting in the
graphic numbers that might change or be used in headlines (number of
those killed, etc.).
- Always ask, So
what? Does this graphic contain information that our readers will find
interesting and relevant and can understand? Is it worth the space it's taking up?