A Simple and Effective Way to Improve Claims: Visuals in Narratives

One of our distance learning students recently raised a point that graphics and other visuals can be effectively used in narratives to enhance a claim document. I agree with him, provided that you follow some basic rules. In this blog we look at visuals in narratives and how they could improve your claim.

Some people see and understand things better through ‘pictures’ and others prefer the written word and I have to admit that I am one of the latter in this respect. On many occasions, I have come across a claim which consists almost entirely of charts, tables and other graphical representations. I have simply not been able to understand it, because there have not been any written explanations of the graphics. This is something to do with the left and right sides of the brain. As well as how we process information and usually, one will be stronger than the other in most people.

The problem that we have when preparing claims is that we seldom know what type of brain the people who will eventually read the claim will have, so it is definitely a good idea to appeal to both types. One thing that is absolutely vital for the success of a claim though, is that the respondent is able to understand the contents fully and that the claim leads them ‘by the hand’ to the conclusion that you wish them to reach.

So, how can we include graphics and visuals effectively?

The main rule to bear in mind is that visuals will not take the place of the written word. You should include them in addition to the narrative to illustrate the point.

You can embed visuals in narratives to explain a point better. For example, including a fragnet to demonstrate how a delay has built up. Obviously, the fragnet would also need to be included in the delay analysis programme in the appendix, but a snapshot of the fragnet would be useful in the narrative itself and will make the readers’ job easier by not asking them to refer to the full delay analysis programme at this point.

When including a graphical illustration such as a fragnet, never assume that the reader will be able to understand it. You must explain, step-by-step, how it was created and what it means so that we are appealing to both left and right brain-dominant people.

Here is an example of how a you might embed a drawing extract into a narrative to illustrate a variation:

8.1. The Contract design provides that the telephone and CCTV distribution networks were to be laid in two separate cable ducts along different routes.

8.2. During the engineering phase of the project, the Contractor was verbally advised that the Employer wished to change the design so that the telephone and CCTV ducts would be laid within the same trench in a common route.

Drawing showing revised telephone and CCTV arrangements.


The above tells the ‘story’, much better than words alone.

The use of tables can also be an effective way of providing information that is easy to digest. Take a look at the following example:

8.1. Appendix E herein includes a time impact programme which is based upon the updated programme of 12 January 2016, into which the additional works have been added as follows:

[table “” not found /]

The above concisely illustrates the build-up of additional works included in a delay analysis for an extension of time claim. If a graphic of the programmed activities were also included to show the above in ‘picture’ format, this would be even more effective.

So, the next time you’re writing a claim narrative, think about the points you are trying to make and consider whether you could enhance them through visual representation; it could lead to a much more effective claim.

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