A Table is Worth 500 Words

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then surely a table is worth at least 500. Sometimes the verbiage gets really bogged down when trying to describe relationships or scenarios. In those cases, a table can cut through the fog like a car’s headlights. (Nice simile, eh?)

Here’s an example of text vs. table for a Bureau of Land Management regulation (taken from
<a href="http://www.plainlanguage.govwww.plainlanguage.gov<http://www.plainlanguage.gov>).

Text:
“We must receive your completed application form on or before the 15th day of the
second month following the month you are reporting if you do not submit your application electronically or the 25th day of the second month following the month you are reporting if you submit your application electronically.”

Table:
If you submit your form …     We must receive it by …
Electronically                                    25th of the second month
Not electronically                             15th of the second month

See how intuitive this information is? And how fast and easy it is to absorb?

Engineers, as a rule, are very visual people, not word-lovers. They want to get their
information at a glance, not have to hack their way through the jungle of verbiage. (Nice metaphor, eh?)

Rule of Thumb:
If you can convert your text to a table, please do so.

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