Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Table Design Principles
Use effective number formatting
Every piece of information in your table should have a reason for being there. To clarify, tables often
inundate the audience with superfluous ink that doesn’t add value to the information. For example,
you’ll often see tables that show a number like $145.57 when a simple 145 would be relay the data
just fine. Why include the extra decimal places that serve only to add to the mass of numbers that
your audience will need to plow through?
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when applying formats to the numbers in your table.
➤ Only use decimal places if that level of precision is required.
➤ In percentages, use only the minimum number of decimals required to represent the data
➤ Instead of using currency symbols (like $ or £), let your labels clarify that you’re referring to
➤ Format very large numbers to thousands or millions place.
➤ Right-align numbers so that they’re easier to read and compare.
Figure 2-7 shows the table with appropriate number formatting applied. Note the following:
➤ The large revenue and margin dollar amounts are converted to thousands place.
➤ The labels above the numbers now clearly indicate that the numbers are represented in
➤ The percentages are truncated to show no decimal places.
➤ The key metric, the Margin % column, is emphasized by color coding.
Figure 2-7: Use number formatting to eliminate clutter in your table and draw attention to key metrics.
Amazingly, all of these improvements were made with simple number formatting. That’s right; no
formulas were used to convert large numbers to thousands place, no conditional formatting was
used to color code the Margin % field, no other peripheral tricks of any kind were used.