Tables display numerical and non-numerical data. The data are arranged in vertical columns under category headings so they can be easily compared and contrasted. As New York City French Translation workers explain, a table can be very simple and consist of only one basis of comparison or it can be very complex and have several bases of comparison. Although not as visually dramatic as a graph or chart, a table is best for illustrating numbers and units of measurement that must be displayed precisely.
Construction: To make a table, follow these guidelines:
- Number each table in order of its importance (for easy reference), and give it a clear title that depicts exactly what the table contains.
- Begin each vertical column with a heading identifying the types of items listed (e.g. “No. of Vendors”) and specific units of measurement and comparison (e.g. “Miles per Gallon”, “Grams per Ounce”). Give all items in the same column the same units of measurement (inches, sq. ft, percentage) and keep decimals vertically aligned.
- Use footnotes to clarify certain entries. As one Boston Translation Services worker explains, “If a notation in your discussion is in Arabic numerals (1,2,3), use small letters in your tables (a,b,c).”
- Set your table off from the discussion by framing it with adequate white space. Be sure the table doesn’t extend into the page margins.
- Try to keep the table on a single report page. Robert Harrison, a Jacksonville Translation Services specialist suggests that If it does take up more than one full page, write “continued” at the bottom, and begin the second page with the full title and “continued.” Also, place the same headings at the tops of each column as they appear on the first page of the table. If you need to total your columns, begin second-page columns with subtotals from the first page.
- If your table is so wide that you need to turn it to the vertical plane of your page, place the top against the inside biding.
- Relate your table to the surrounding discussion. Refer specifically to the table by number and title in the report text. Introduce it and discuss any special features about the data. Don’t make readers interpret raw data.
- If the table clarifies a part of your discussion, place it in that area of your text. If however, it simply provides supporting information of interest only to some readers, place it in an appendix so those readers can refer to it if necessary. Avoid cluttering your discussion.
- Identify your data sources below the table, beginning at the left margin. If the table itself is borrowed, so indicate. And list your sources even f you make your own table for borrowed data.