Creating a Flow Chart Diagram

by Stephanie Powers

Understand the symbols

Simple shapes and words

Flow chart diagrams visually show a process. They can be created for just about any series of events. The chart is read from top to bottom, and left to right. Flow charts diagrams use a universal set of symbols. Ovals are beginning and ending points. Squares and rectangles are activities or steps. When a series of steps are condensed together, a rectangle with vertical lines on each end is used to indicate a sub-process. Diamonds are decisions. Circles connect parts of the diagram together. Other symbols may indicate data, printouts, or more.

Draw process steps from top to bottom and left to right

Link decisions to results

Create an oval to represent the starting point. Inside the oval, type the word "start" or "begin." Draw a rectangle for the first step. Inside the rectangle, type the action to be taken. Use verbs as one word actions or use very short phrases (just enough information to tell the reader what to do). Draw an arrow from the starting point to the next step. If the next step is a decision, create a diamond shape. Type a very short closed-ended question in the diamond. Closed-ended questions have yes or no answers. If the question has more than one answer, create a series of yes or no decisions, one after the other. Draw an action square for what should be done if the answer is "yes" and another for what should be done if the answer is "no." Draw arrows from the diamond to the yes and no boxes. Since flow charts are usually read top to bottom left to right, use the bottom point of the diamond for the yes arrow and the right point for the no arrow. Label each arrow according to its intention. Continue moving through the process connecting actions with arrows until all actions are shown.

Make the diagram easy to read

Use as little verbiage as possible. Keep all symbols and arrows aligned using the align center feature found in most programs. If the diagram is too large to fit on the page, use a connector to link to another page or another part of the diagram. A connector is a circle with a number inside of it. For example: Draw an arrow to a circle with a number "1" inside of it at the place where the diagram needs to connect to another page. On the new page, create another circle with a number "1" to indicate the place where the diagram should continue. At the end of the process draw an oval and type the word "stop" or "end" to indicate the end of the process.

Draw electronically or manually

Flow chart diagrams can be drawn using diagramming software such as Visio, but word processing programs with drawing capabilities can also be used. Because the diagrams are simple geometric shapes and arrows, they can also be drawn by hand.

About the Author

Stephanie Powers has been a professional writer since 2007. She honed her research and writing skills as a business and financial consultant. Her writing specialties include Web content, blogs, newsletters, professional journal articles and white papers. She has an undergraduate degree in business from Drake University and a Master of Business Administration from Houston Baptist University.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera S Powers