I know that it breaks the general format of essays and that you should generally not include diagrams in essays. I just find it hard to keep clarity for parts that can be misunderstood, if interpreted differently. In the context of my essay, is it ok to use diagrams?

The essay is an analysis of the factors that contributed to an air crash. The image below is a small part of the essay.

enter image description here

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    This depends entirely on what "specifications" you have for an essay. If it's a school assignment, you may be directed to not use diagrams, on purpose, in order to test your writing skills. If you're doing it for work, it depends entirely on what your client/boss/requirements demand(s). In professional technical writing, it's quite normal to use diagrams--obviously, they really do help. – sesquipedalias Apr 16 '19 at 9:16
  • Yes, this college assessment is not so much about academic writing ability but more about content. – Mathieu Apr 16 '19 at 9:35
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    Unrelated to your question per se, but wing chord, angle of attack and critical AoA are about pitch, not roll or yaw. While excessive yaw can (even deliberately be used to) induce additional drag and thus require more engine power for the same flight profile, and roll tends to induce yaw, your illustration would probably be just about exactly correct if it were showing movement in the vertical plane; that is, not a steep turn, but sharply pulling out of a dive. That would seem to be the standard warning about how airfoils stall at a given angle of attack, as opposed to a particular airspeed. – user Apr 16 '19 at 9:48
  • Ideally you should get a clarification on how this will be graded / what specifically is required. Failing that, the compromise suggested by @Liquid seems to me is your best choice. – sesquipedalias Apr 16 '19 at 11:34
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    I used to teach Tech Writing -- I would actually require diagrams (or some graphic element). Be sure you're citing the source and labeling it properly as required. (And as a good practice, for accessibility, be sure to add a Description for the picture (Word) or Alt-Text (HTML). ) – April Salutes Monica C. Apr 16 '19 at 13:04

I think that in this case you may want to keep both ways open.

Diagrams are usually allright in academic and technical contexts, but you mentioned this is a college assessment and your ability to write clearly is going to be graded.

I would include the image for clarity, while describing the contents of the image at the same time. Writing an accurate description on such topic is surely a difficult task, but you are probably supposed to undertake it anyway.


Graphics and artwork get a bad rap in essays and similar length nonfiction because so many authors and editors make stupid decisions.

How many stock photos of beautiful young people in posed action shots have you seen adorning articles? Or maybe it's a stock photo of a computer or a kitchen. In your case, perhaps an airplane.

enter image description here

But you don't want a photo, you want a diagram. Here you go.

enter image description here

When people say "please God no, no graphics" they mean, don't grab things to pretty up the essay that don't serve any purpose.

Sometimes though, pictures and diagrams are essential to understanding, or they really add to the work. Figuring out if this is the case, and then creating the right graphics to go with the work, is a lot harder than you might think.

Since you're dealing with academic work, you need to ask your teacher what s/he does and doesn't want. When you're a student, you write for your audience just like anybody else. The difference is that a student's entire audience is made up of the teacher (and and those working with her/him).

For published works, you go with what the publisher wants (and can afford). In some media, like blogging, every essay will have pictures because that's how the medium works. Essay, article, blog post, etc. They are more alike than they are different. Just the presentation varies.

I would find it odd for an article about airplane moves that lead to crashes not to have any graphics. I'm not sure yours is the right one (to be honest, it didn't aid in my understanding of the problem), but it makes sense to have something. What is a critical angle and how does it work with turns? That's what you need your graphics to get across.

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    As to your closing point "what is a critical angle [...]?", that depends very much on the audience being written for. Any student pilot should be able to tell you the definition of critical angle of attack, for example, so spending time or text explaining that to an audience of pilots would be a waste of breath unless that is a deliberate lead-in to the actual point that's being made. If the audience is more along the lines of aviation enthusiasts, maybe; if the audience is the general public, definitely, but they won't know what angle of attack is in the first place, so will need even more. – user Apr 17 '19 at 11:07
  • @aCVn Absolutely. So if the article is aimed at people who already know what a critical angle is and how it relates turning, then what is the use of the attached diagram in the question? Is there any audience it's useful for? – Cyn says make Monica whole Apr 17 '19 at 13:58
  • With appropriate elaboration, and ideally clarification of the diagram, I do think that such an audience is a possibility. It would depend a lot on the focus of the text, though. – user Apr 17 '19 at 14:06

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