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.
Ten table tipsHere 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.