Fundamentals for Tables

By definition, tables are lists of words or numbers arranged in columns and rows. Follow these practices when creating them:

  • Be sure to name tables properly; do not accidentally call them figures. The basic difference between them is that tables do not involve pictures.
  • Make certain that each entry in the left-most column (called the stub) applies across its entire row, and that each column heading pertains to all entries beneath it.
  • Arrange stub items by a logic suited to the context—largest to smallest, alphabetically, by category, or for emphasis.
  • Straight lines are often used to separate the table’s title from the column heads, the column heads from the body of the table, and the bottom of the table from the paper’s text or the table’s footnotes. Boxes around and within the table are also appropriate, especially if they aid the eye in vertical movement.
  • If possible, construct a table so that the reader’s eye can primarily travel down a column rather than have to read along a row.
  • Use footnotes (a simple asterisk to indicate them will do) for important explanatory material such as the provider of testing equipment or the fact that a particular sample became contaminated.