Some Guidelines for Creating Tables Using Microsoft Word

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Some Guidelines for Creating Tables Using Microsoft Word (adapted from the Journal of Animal Science)
One way to prepare a table in a manuscript is using the Microsoft Word Table function. Select Insert  Table and follow the instructions below as appropriate. Each data point in a table must be in a separate cell. When tables and their data points are formatted into rows and columns using tabs, spaces, and hard returns, the tables often must be re-keyed/reformatted which allows the introduction of errors and could delay publication of your manuscript.
To create a table using Word, follow these steps:

1. Determine the number of columns and rows required.

2. Open the Insert Table dialog box by clicking on the icon or using the Table drop-down menu:

3. Enter the number of columns and rows and select “AutoFit to contents.” Note that additional rows can easily be added later using Table > Insert > Row Below, but it is more difficult to add columns later.

Spanner head

Stub head ()

Column head

Column head

Column head

Column head

Row head



Row head

4. To merge several cells (in a row or column), select the cells using the cursor and right-click to the “merge cells” option. This is useful for making a spanner head (see example table above). The spanner head can be used to consolidate information that applies to several column heads (also called boxheads).

5. To split 1 cell into 2 or more cells, select the cells and right click to the “split cells” option.
6. Indent subheads under row heads.
7. Note that the stub head (see example table above) is a special kind of column head. The stub head describes the row heads below and is often a generic term such as item or variable. This cell should not be used to describe other column heads.
8. Tables that are prepared in Microsoft Excel can be imported into Word by simply copying and pasting from Excel. The Word table functions (e.g., expanding or reducing column widths, merging and splitting cells) can then be used to clean up the table.
See the next page for examples.
Poorly constructed table using spaces, tabs, and hard returns:
Table 1. Milk production and composition in dairy cows fed 1 of 5 levels of grain.

1Treatments: A = control (no grain); B = grain at 10 kg/d; C = grain at 15 kg/d; D = grain at 20 kg/d; E = grain at 25 kg/d.

2SCC = somatic cell count.
Table constructed correctly using the table function of Word:

Table 1. Milk production and composition in dairy cows fed 1 of 5
levels of grain.








Milk yield, kg/d






Milk fat, kg/d






Milk protein






SCC2 (×1,000 cells/mL)






a–c Means within a row with different superscripts differ (P < 0.05).

1 Treatments: A = control (no grain); B = grain at 10 kg/d; C = grain at 15 kg/d;
D = grain at 20 kg/d; E = grain at 25 kg/d.

2 SCC = somatic cell count.

* P < 0.05; **P < 0.01; ***P < 0.005.

  • Note that the heading “Treatments” should appear above the column heads in a separate row, not within the header row. Also, use singular nouns, not plural, for headings (“Treatment,” not “Treatments”).

  • Footnote references should read from left to right and from top to bottom.

  • Each data point and column or row head should occupy a separate cell in the table to facilitate correct alignment of rows and columns in the typeset table. If data points are positioned using tabs and spaces, the table will become corrupted during typesetting.

  • A spanner head (“Treatment”) consolidates similar column heads.

  • Each table should be able to stand on its own without having to refer back to the paper for explanations of abbreviations. Acronyms, units of measure, etc. should be defined in each table, and manufacturer name and location should be provided for any proprietary product appearing in a table.

  • If the data in several column heads have the same units, a spanning row can be inserted above the data and below the rule. Otherwise, each column head should be followed by the unit descriptor for that column.

  • The stub head (“Item”) describes the row heads below it (not the column heads to the right).

  • Footnotes can be used to denote statistical significance, define abbreviations, or clarify data in a row or column.

  • Use letter superscripts and symbols for footnotes of statistical significance (applied to individual data points in the field) and use numbered footnotes for informational or explanatory footnotes.

Decimal tab drop-down menu located in upper left corner of screen 
Align columns of numbers on the decimal. To do this you must first highlight the column that you want to decimal align, choose “align text left”, choose decimal tab, and then click the tab in place on the horizontal ruler.

  • Do not let table title or footnotes run longer than the width of the table itself.

  • Insert spaces before and after symbols such as ± (e.g., 34.5 ± 87.6)

  • Try to eliminate excessive white space in tables. Tighten up rows and columns while still maintaining ease in readability.

  • Do not show horizontal and vertical gridlines (or borders) throughout table. Only the horizontal lines setting off the headings on top and one at the end of the table setting off the footnotes are necessary. Use single lines of ½ point width.

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