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Making your text more effective

A text can be made more effective using typographical methods – though such methods are not to be used unnecessarily. An important issue can be written in bold or CAPITALS, underlined or in italics. Wide letter spacing is not economic or clear and should therefore be avoided. Use special effects sparingly to avoid wasting their effectiveness and use them in an organised, logical way.


Some parts of the texts can be listed. Lists make the text easier to understand. There are two ways of including lists in your text: a list can be either a part of the text or each point on the list will start on its own line. Including a list within the text is a good idea when there are a lot of lists and each point on the list is rather short. A separate list is easier to notice and read but it can disturb the cohesiveness of your text. Do not use too many lists – they make your text look like an outline. Any type of list use should be in harmony with the surrounding text.

A list cannot be a separate paragraph, as it must be preceded by an explanatory sentence. A new section or chapter cannot start with a list on its own. When compiling list it is good to bear in mind that each point on the list must follow on naturally from the introductory sentence to the list. Each point on the list must be comparable in content and format – if one point is a full sentence (contains a predicate), the following points on the list cannot be separate words or incomplete sentences and clauses.

Each point on a list included in the actual text must be preceded by numbers or letters placed before a curved bracket. The structure of the sentence determines whether a colon is required before the list. A colon is used when the introductory sentence is a full sentence in grammatical terms. Within the list general punctuation rules must be observed.


A colon is used a) as a punctuation mark, b) before an ending and c) to denote a ratio/relationship.

The items of a separate list are preceded by a dash and space or letter and number bullets. Letter and number bullets are usually used when it is necessary to refer to points on the list in the text following the list itself. Lists should be bulleted carefully and logically. There is not a dot after number bullets. Capital letters of the alphabet bullets are followed by a dot: A., B., C., and small letters are followed by a curved bracket: a), b), c) etc. There should be one space between the dash, number or alphabet bullets and the text of the list.

A comma/semicolon is not used after each point on the list because the dash or number/alphabetical bullets separate each point clearly. A conjunction is not required between the last two points on a list. A full stop is only used at the end of a list when each item on the list is a separate sentence or section. Within the list a one-line gap should be left between each item if any part of the list contains more than one line. There is always a full stop at the end of the list.


The exhaust fumes of a car must not exceed the following values:

1 Carbon Monoxide 2.1 g/km

2 Hydrocarbons 0.25 g/km

3 Sulphur Oxides 0.62 g/km.

Gardner (1983) has divided intelligence into seven gifts including

  • - linguistic
  • - logic-mathematical
  • - spatial
  • - body-kinaesthetic
  • - musical
  • - interpersonal, capable of understanding oneself
  • - interpersonal, capable of understanding others

According to Callahan (1990) the following issues are important in the education of gifted girls:

  • - Girls should have the opportunity to practise solving visual-spatial problems from an early age.
  • - Girls should have access to role models such as successful women of science.
  • - Girls should be taught that the future lies in their own hands.
  • - Girls and boys should be encouraged in the same way.

A chapter or section should not end with a list. There should be at least two or three sentences to bind the whole chapter or section together.

Tables and Illustrations

A written presentation can be illustrated using pictures, diagrams, drawings and tables. Illustrations can be used if they are relevant to the issue under discussion and if they are explained. Illustrations must be printable and suitable for copying and they should not be pencil drawings. If there is a lot of illustrative material of a large size, present them as appendices. If the appendix includes material larger than A4 size, fold the material so that your work does not bulge at the seams.

Diagrams and tables should be positioned by the left hand margin. Each type of diagram should be numbered (Figure 1., Table 1.) and complete with an explanation. It is then easy to refer to the figure or table accurately and economically later on. The title and explanation of a diagram are normally written underneath the diagram or figure and the title and explanation of a table are written above the table.


Tables have been proven to be a more economic way of presenting information than texts containing similar information. Tables are not, however, a guarantee of clarity. A good research report does not need a lot of tables but it does not clear tables. Tables are used to present numerical information, with text headings. The following basic guidelines should be followed when using tables:

  1. A table should be so informative that just by reading the table the reader will understand the content of the issue presented. 
  2. The tile and explanation of the table are located above the table. Tables should be numbered in consecutive order using their own series of numbers. After each number there is a full stop. 
  3. A table should fit onto one page. If the table requires more than one page, mark (to be continued) at the bottom edge of the table and at the top of the following page on the left hand side write Table X (continued). 
  4. The table should fit within the margins of the text. The table must be separated from the rest of text by two empty lines/rows. 
  5. Use whole words and abbreviations in common use in your tables. 
  6. If you use a table compiled by someone else, provide the reference.


A good diagram gives more information than a whole heap of numbers. Curves, bars and drawings illustrate and emphasise the information they illustrate. Diagram or figure describes all methods of illustration used in research reports apart from tables, such as maps, drawings and photos. A diagram or figure is a good way of presenting qualitative aspects of numerical information such as comparisons and relationships.

When planning the use of diagrams bear in mind that they involve a lot of work and require more time than texts and tables. When composing diagrams pay attention to the following matters:

  • Diagrams should only have one interpretation 
  • Diagrams should be numbered in consecutive order from the beginning of your work to the end. 
  • Diagrams and figures should have a heading/title and there must be a source reference if required. 
  • Diagrams are always referred to according to number (Figure 1) in the text. 
  • Diagrams should be should sharp enough to remain clear when made smaller and copied.

The diagram or figure should be necessary to the text but it should not repeat what is said in the text. When using diagrams and figures you should think about which the type of figure would be most suitable in the context – a drawing, diagram, map or photo.