Saturday, December 4, 2010

Writing Tip : Formatting tables neatly

Formatting tables neatly


This article provides tips for neatly formatting tables.
Consider the two tables that follow. Both present the same information in the same order and in roughly the same amount of space. Nonetheless, one appears more presentable than the other.
Table 1
Clearly the first table looks dreadful. The caption is too large, the text is of different sizes and styles, the vertical lines are distracting and the overall effect is very poor. Although exaggerated for effect, it is not uncommon to see printed tables that do suffer from one or more of these defects.
Table 2
By comparison, the second table is an exemplar of simple elegance. Neat, understated; it presents the same information with a minimum of decoration, yet clearly appears more sophisticated for all its simplicity.

Ten table tips

Here then are some guidelines that you may wish to follow when setting tables in Word or some other word processor. These are not set in stone; they are simply a set of conventions that I've developed over the years. Feel free to adapt them to your own use.
Guideline 1
Set tables one or two points smaller than the surrounding text. For example, if your main text is set in 12 point, set your table in 10 or 11 point.
Guideline 2
Set your table in a sans-serif font like Arial or Verdana.
Guideline 3
All information in the table should be set one-and-a-half spaced. (Use the Paragraph... command from Word's Format... menu.)
Guideline 4
The paragraphs above and below the table should be separated from it by 18 points.
Guideline 5
Columns of numbers should be right-aligned if they have no decimal point or aligned on the decimal point if they do.
Guideline 6
Generally, the heading of the left-most column should be left aligned. Those in the other columns should be centred.
Guideline 7
The heading row has a thin rule (i.e. line) above and below it. There is also a thin rule below the final row.
Guideline 8
Do not use vertical rules.
Guideline 9
If the caption is more than one line long, it should be set with a hanging indent as shown above.
Guideline 10
If the final row contains summary information (e.g. totals or averages), the row should be set in bold face.

No comments:

Post a Comment