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Editing tables

Tables can be used for different purposes. The most common purpose is to present numerical data. Other data may be in the form of words, phrases or sentences.

Some things to look for when editing tables:

  • Is there too much data? If so, is all of the data needed? Can the table be divided into more than one table? Can a summary be put into the main body of the document, and the details into an appendix? Can some of the information (such as explanations) be put into table footnotes?
  • Does the information in the table duplicate information in an illustration? If so, is this needed or helpful to the reader? Perhaps one could be cut out.
  • Columns are better than rows for comparisons. Does the table need to be reorganised?
  • Does the table need a caption? Some short tables may not, but major tables should have captions. Is the caption informative? It should usually be short, leaving extended discussion to the text.
  • Are the column and row headings brief, but easy to understand?
  • If the table is complex, can it be made easier to follow by using main headings and subheadings for the columns and/or rows?

Editing statistical tables

Please see Editing tables of data by Irene Wong, for an excellent summary of things to look for when editing statistical tables.

Last updated 20 September 2001