Pay attention to size and scale

Even when there is no overt attempt to deceive, it is possible to present a compelling visualization that through choice of perspective can obscure or distort data. For example, reducing the size of artwork for publication can do strange things to scale. Reduction minimizes some flaws, but accentuates others. Use computer software capabilities or a photocopier with reduction abilities to check what a figure will look like after reduction.

A horizontal rectangle, with a longer horizontal than vertical axis, will usually fit within the layout of a journal's page. (A ratio of 2 vertical units to 3 horizontal units is considered especially pleasing.) Vertical rectangles often need reduction; whenever possible, reformat them to a square or horizontal rectangle.

After reduction of the illustration for publication, experts suggest that the capital letters in written material on the illustration should be about 2.0 mm in height. Lines for the x- and y-axes and trend lines in graphs should be no wider than the width of the lines making up the letters. Points on curves in graphs should not be so large as to merge upon reduction.

If the size of the subject of a photograph is important, include a short scale line to indicate dimensions. If possible, lay a centimeter-millimeter rule in the field so that it will be visible in the finished photograph. Apply a scale to a photomicrograph.

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