7. Constructing Text


Tables are an ideal format for presenting statistical information or facts that you can structure uniformly. Information that is conceptual or explanatory is best written in a narrative paragraph. Also, tables are easy for a reader to find when you list them in the table of contents.

Writing Text for Tables

Complex tables typically include a number, caption, column heads, and table text. Simple tables, such as those that list option flags and their descriptions, are often not numbered and have no captions. Use spaces and rules (vertical and horizontal lines) to format the table text.

Table Introductions

Introduce the context of a table to your readers.

    Refer to the table number ("Table 1-1 shows . . . .") rather than the table's position on the page ("The table below shows . . . .").

Table Captions

Writers usually choose a style for table captions that parallels the style used for section heads and figure captions.

When constructing table captions, consider how you will do the following:

    Decide whether you want to use a single-digit (for example, "Table 1") or a double-digit (for example, Table 1-1) numbering system. The type of system you use should match the method you chose for the figure captions in your document.

    Many writers include the word "continued" in a caption that appears on the second and subsequent pages. Other writers may indicate a continued table by placing "continued" at the bottom of the table and a bottom rule only on the last page of the table text.

    Match the table caption style to the figure captions and section heads in your document.

Table Heads

Table heads concisely summarize information in a column.

    For example, write "Alternative Backup Schedule" rather than "An Alternative Backup Schedule."

Table Text

The table text is the main body of information, formatted into rows and columns.

    For better readability, use an initial capital for only the first word in a cell, unless there is a reason to capitalize other words in the text.

Determining the Type of Table to Use

Tables should present information in concise categories. There are several ways to design a table, depending upon the information you need to present. Table 7-1 is an example of a standard table with columns and rows separated by spaces.

    Table 7-1 Standard Table

Specifier  Value of the Variable  Data Type for the Variable
BLANK      `NULL'                 CHARACTER
IOSTAT     Error number           INTEGER
OPENED     .TRUE.                 LOGICAL

Table 7-2 uses horizontal rules to group information into rows.

    Table 7-2 Table With Horizontal Rules

Name and Address            Corporate   Sales     Service
ABC Corp.                   (617)       (617)     (617)
624 Main Street             555-9731    555-1632  555-4932
Chelmsford, MA 01824                                
DEF Corp.                   (213)       (415)     (415)
90 Columbia Avenue          555-8413    555-5940  555-3662
Los Angeles, CA 94043                                       
----------------------------------------------------------                                                  GHI Corp.                   (719)       (719)     (719)
Colorado Springs, CO 80920  555-8842    555-9013  555-4701

Table 7-3 uses horizontal and vertical rules to separate information.

    Table 7-3 Table With Horizontal and Vertical Rules

Command | Syntax                |  Options
at      | at time               |  -l Lists current job.
        | at [options] job-ids  |  -r Removes specified job.
        |                       |  time Time specified when commands will run.
chown   | chown owner filename  |  -h Changes ownership of symbolic link.
find    | find filename         |  -print Prints names of files found.
        |                       |  -name filename Finds file with cited name.

Table 7-4 uses side and top heads to create a grid. Both the top and side heads are bold. A vertical rule separates the side heads from the table text.

    Table 7-4 Table With Side and Top Heads

Permission | User  Group  Others
Read       | 4     4      4
Write      | 2     0      0
Execute    | 1     1      1
Total      | 7     5      5

Writing Text for Jump Tables

A jump table is a two-column table that serves as a table of contents for a portion of a book, usually for a chapter. If your document is on line, the jump table can include hypertext pointers to selected sections and you could probably eliminate the page numbers.

Table 7-5 shows a jump table.

    Table 7-5 Jump Table

To Set Up Automatic Data Collection    page 124
To Display Data Collection Statistics  page 152
To Display I/O Statistics              page 163
To Display Performance Statistics      page 179