Tables make complex information easier to understand by presenting it in a clear structure. In a table, data is arranged into two or more rows (plus a header row) and two or more columns. Don’t use a table just to present a list of items that are similar. Use a list instead.
|Tables are sometimes useful for||Example|
|Data or values||Text formats and their associated HTML codes|
|Simple instructions||User interface actions and their associated keyboard shortcuts|
|Categories of things with examples||BriteCore modules and the screens/functions they include|
|Collections of things with two or more attributes||Event dates with times and locations|
Make sure the purpose of the table is clear. Include a brief introduction and a table title (before the table, not beneath it).
Bold the table reference and table title both before the table and wherever the text appears elsewhere. In the table title, also bold the colon. End table titles with a period. Also bold BriteCore UI elements.
Table 1 summarizes file functions and their descriptions.
Table 1: File function descriptions.
|AddUsersToEncryptedFile||Adds user keys to the specified encrypted file|
|Cancello||Cancels all pending input and output (I/O) operations that are issued by the calling thread for the specified file|
|CancelloEx||Marks any outstanding I/O operations for the specified file handle|
|GetTempFileName||Creates a name for a temporary file|
Make entries in a table parallel. For example, make all the items within a column a noun or a phrase that starts with a verb.
Place information that identifies the contents of a row in the leftmost column of the table. For example, in a table that describes commands, put the command names in the left column.
Don’t leave a cell blank or use an em dash to indicate there’s no entry for that cell. Instead, use Not applicable or None.
Balance row height by increasing the width of text-heavy columns and reducing the width of columns with minimal text.
If the first row of your table contains column headings, you have a header row. Distinguish the text in the header row from the rest of the text in the table. For example, make it larger, bolder, or a different color.
Don’t organize a table so that the column heading forms a complete sentence when combined with the cell contents. This can make the table difficult to localize.
In long tables, make sure the header row is always visible. For example, on the web, use a fixed header row that stays in place during scrolling. Or, in a downloadable document, occasionally repeat the header row. Some authoring tools provide a way to do this automatically. In Microsoft Word, select the header row. On the Layout tab under Table Tools, select Repeat Header Rows.
Use sentence-style capitalization for the table title and each column heading. Use sentence-style capitalization for the text in cells unless there’s a reason not to (for example, keywords that must be lowercase).
If there’s text that introduces the table, it should be a complete sentence and end with a period, not a colon.
Don’t use ellipses at the end of column headings.
For the text in cells, use periods or other end punctuation only if the cells contain complete sentences or a mixture of fragments and sentences.