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12 Tips for Using Tables in Business Writing

What’s Good About Using Tables in Business Writing?Visual Tables

There are many reasons for using tables in business writing. In fact, there are 10 terrific reasons to use visual communication, such as tables, in your report. See my post, Visual Communication in Business Writing.

For example, it is a great way to support your text.  It is also an effective way to condense information and not bore your reader.  It helps the reader understand trends and relationships.

Example of a simple table

Here is a simple table with fictional expenses for a typical Canadian family. It illustrates proper format or layout for using tables in business writing.  Look below the table for an explanation of the numbers in brackets.

Table 1. [1]
Typical Household Expenses for the First Quarter of a Calendar Year [2]

Items

First Three Months [3]

JAN FEB MAR [4]

Food [5]

314.36

381.41

401.82

Clothing

78.00

105.00

42.00

Mortgage

683.24

683.24

683.24

Electricity

150.00

150.00

150.00

Cell phone

48.00

52.00

43.00

Insurance

Life [6]

30.00

30.00

30.00

Car

62.50

62.50

62.50

Total

1366.34

1464.15

1412.56

* Based on an average Canadian family of four owning a condominium. All amounts in Canadian dollars.[7]
Source: Canadian Economy Update (fictional) [8]

1. Table Number
2. Table Title
3. Spanner Heading
4. Column Headings
5. Row Headings
6. Row Subheadings
7. Footnote
8. Source of information

12 rules for using tables in business writing

  1.  Refer to the table in the text.
  2.  Make the meaning of the table clear to readers.
  3.  Place the table in an appropriate place next to the text.
  4.  The table should not duplicate information in the text.
  5.  Keep the table simple.
  6.  Put important tables in the document and less important tables in appendices.
  7.  Clearly indicate the table number [1] and the table title [2].
  8.  Use an appropriate Spanner heading [3] and Column Headings [4]
  9.  Make sure all the data in the rows and columns have the same format (in the example below the numbers are in Canadian dollars with 2 decimal points).
  10. Use footnotes, comments or hyperlinks to explain information.
  11. Indicate the source of your information.
  12. Proofread the table and make sure all the information is accurate.

So the next time you need to produce a report follow these simple tips for using tables in business writing.

A great resource for more detailed information for using tables in business writing is Learn Good Business Writing and Communication.

In upcoming posts, I will look at ways of including charts and graphs in your business documents.

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