Placement Of Text

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    There are many answers to the question on how and where to place text for images, figures, snapshots, etc. Should text be embedded or placed below, beside, above, or to the left or right of the image. It depends. For simplicity, let’s use the word ‘diagram’ to represent images, figures, snapshots, pictures, charts, etc., in our examples below.

    Embedded text box

    If the diagram is used to show where the keys (buttons, knobs, switches, controls pins, screws, levers, etc.) are located, use text boxes with arrows pointing to their location.

    Large diagram

    If the diagram is large, crop it just enough to focus on a particular element. If the diagram is too large, and the text that follows falls on the next page, either shrink the diagram or decrease the font size of the text. Try to keep the diagram and the text together.

    Small diagram

    If the diagram is small, placing a text box with explanations to the left of the diagram allows for ease of readability. This also leaves room for the reader to scribble in extra notes to the right of the diagram (if they wish).

    Using a table

    For explanations of crucial mechanisms, create a table below the diagram, and list the names of the instruments or devices in one column and the explanation or usage of it in the adjacent column. If additional diagrams are needed, crop and embed them to fit into the table cells.

    Instructional text

    When giving steps to perform a function, use the table format and place it below the diagram. Number the steps in the table, followed by a heading, such as ‘To initiate…..’ followed by sub steps (if needed). This is an easy format for readers to follow and they can also easily see what tasks need to be accomplished. As above, if one of the steps require another diagram, shrink or crop it and embed it into the table with the explanation to the left of the image (again for ease of readability).

    Text Placement

    I tend to always put the text below a diagram. We read from left to right and downward, so it is natural and easier for the eye to move down to read text after a diagram rather than up. Also, the image of the diagram is still fresh in your mind as you read down. The only time I have used text above a figure is when explaining, e.g., a graphic or chart or anything that involves numbers. For example, if the preceding text of a diagram is similar to any of the following statements: ’In the following xxx. .’, ‘For example…’, ‘Note the following…’, then I would place the diagram after the statement.

    There is controversy as to whether or not to place text after or before diagrams, images, figures, snapshots, etc., so check your company style guide first. See what the company prefers. It may be the total opposite of what was stated in this post. Just remember to keep your format consistent. Too many different views can confuse the reader.

    Please leave a comment and let us know what format you prefer?