How to Improve Table Layouts in Business Documents


Use tables to help readers understand large amounts of data which otherwise may take several paragraphs to describe.

The main parts of a table are:

  • Table number – number every table and use the same numbering format throughout the document.
  • Title – provide a brief but descriptive title. You don’t need to write a complete sentence. Instead, describe the data in the most useful terms for the reader.
  • Column heads – provide a word or phrase that identifies the information in each column. Use spanner heads if column heads are in two or more levels, that is, a collective head and individual heads.
  • Stub – this is the left-most column in a table. Place numbers¸ names, and unique identifiers here.
  • Body – the body of a table consists of the columns to the right of the stub and below the column heads. Enter the main data here.
  • Footnotes – three kinds of footnotes may be included at the end of a table.
  • Source notes identify the data source or, if the table is reproduced without change, the original published work.
  • General notes apply to the table as a whole.
  • Specific notes apply to specific numbers or rows or columns in the table.
  • Rules – these lines visually separate the table into parts. In general, use horizontal rules.

Table Design Rules

A table should contain at least:

  • Two columns
  • Six cells of information: two columns and three rows, or three columns and two rows.

Apple Watch Human Interface Guidelines for Tables

Definition: A table presents rows of data in a single column. Use a table to present content that can change dynamically.


  • Use row types consistently. You might create different row types for content, headers, and footers. Use each row type for its designed purpose.
  • Avoid mixing rows with different types of content.
  • When displaying content, be consistent with the row type you use.
  • Use other row types only as section breaks or to organize content rows.
  • Using the same row type for content ensures that rows are sized more consistently and are easier to navigate.
  • Limit the number of table rows displayed at one time.
  • Tables with more than 20 rows of content become cumbersome to scroll through.
  • Display only the subset of rows that are immediately relevant, and give the user the option to load more rows.


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