Perfect Your Tables

There are a lot of little details you must pay attention to if you want your tables in your documents to be perfect. Here are a few that I ran across in my editing efforts today.

If you are cutting and pasting text into cells of a table in Microsoft Word, you may not notice it, but often there is a single space before the text after you have pasted it. This can cause problems down the road if somebody wants to convert that table into an Excel spreadsheet and then sort the data, as that pesky little space can throw off everything. One clue that you may have this problem is when text wraps around in the cell, the second line is a tad further left than the first line. Then you can go and delete all those spaces, which will make a nice, straight alignment on the left in your table and you will avoid any sorting problems when it is converted to Excel.

Another detail is to check the spelling in the table entries just as carefully as the regular text, if not more so. I saw “Annal” instead of “Annual” in a table of recommended frequencies for maintenance tasks today, along with “Quaterly” and “Quartly” instead of “Quarterly.” Surely you don’t want to have to take apart, inspect, and clean the dad-gum thing after every quart of liquid it produces!

Capitalization consistency is also important if you want to have a perfect table. You don’t want to have “Power Factor” in one cell of the table and “Power factor” in another cell, or “Every 3 Years” in one cell and “Every 3 years” in another cell. Make them all the same. And while you are making things the same, make sure you have all dashes, not some dashes and some hyphens.

Bad Example:
Visual inspection – See Procedure 987.654.321
Thermal scan – See Procedure 321.654.987

By paying attention to the little things, you create far more trust in your readers when it comes to the big things.

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I received a comment from the Peanut Gallery about my last Tip of the Day. Steve in Qatar wrote:
I would distinguish “version” from “revision” as follows:  multiple valid versions can exist concurrently.  Typically only the most recent revision is valid, such as for a drawing or procedure, for which the new revision supersedes the previous revision. And you could kill two birds with one stone and tell them that it’s superSEDE not superCEDE.

Thanks, Steve. Good points, both.

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Profound Quote of the Day:
“Trust is built with consistency.”
– Lincoln Chafee, Governor of Rhode Island, b. 1953
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