Using and formatting tables

Although Word is essentially about words and sentences, numbers are important. Statistics help to substantiate one’s own statements. Basically, numbers can be introduced in three ways: As a list in the text or as a clear presentation in a diagram or table. This tutorial shows you how to create and format tables.

Tables can be used to present numbers and text in an orderly way. One of the most important criteria of a table is to arrange key points clearly. Scientific papers often stick to the APA format because its simple elegance puts the focus on the content. In this tutorial, we show the different design options for tables in Word and create a table in APA format.

Create a table

To insert a table, we first click in our document on the place where the table is to appear later.

Next, in the Insert tab, in the Tables section, we click on the small black arrow under the Table icon.

A grid opens with which we can determine how many columns and rows the new table will have. This way we can quickly and easily set the size. For example, if we click on the square to which the green arrow points in the screen section, a table with 5 columns and 3 rows is generated.

To enter the number of columns and rows directly, we click on the option Insert table (red arrow).

The Insert Table dialogue box opens with the input fields for the number of columns and rows. This procedure is suitable if, for example, a large number of rows need to be inserted.

The number of columns and rows can also be adjusted afterwards.

A little tip: in the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, there is a Show All button. We click on it to see every character in our table.

Alternatively, the Show All button can be activated or deactivated with the keyboard combination CTRL and *.

Insert contents

To insert content, we click on the respective cell and type in the corresponding content.

In our example, we enter the column headings City, Inhabitants in millions and Country in row 1. The rows below contain an example data set.

To expand our table, we click the Insert Above, Insert Below, Insert Left and Insert Right buttons in the Rows and Columns section of the Draft tab.

Since we are reproducing the scientific APA format in our example, the alignment is important. Numbers are right-aligned, everything else left-aligned. Column headings are aligned centrally. To do this, select the corresponding cells and press the buttons for alignment in the Start tab in the Paragraph group.

Format tables

To customise the created table, we click on the table. A new tab Table Tools now appears in the ribbon with the tabs Design and Layout. Clicking on the Layout tab displays various options to customise the table, such as the height and width of the cells, but also the alignment and position of the text within the cells.

Tip: If different cells are to be given different formats, they can be marked individually by clicking on them and then layout options can be adjusted separately.

A sample table in Word

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Frame lines

To adjust the frame lines, we click on the Design tab. In this tab we find the button Frame. Clicking on the small arrow below the button opens a menu in which various options for the frame are shown.

Clicking on the No Frame button removes all frames, the table is now no longer visible but continues to exist in the background.

Since we are following the standards of APA in our example, we will insert horizontal frame lines in the following table. To do this, we select the first line where the headings of the table are located.

Now we click on the small arrow on the Frame button so that the selection menu opens. There we select the options Frame lines top and Frame lines bottom. The changes are applied directly to the table.

To add the bottom border line, we select the bottom row of the table and then select the option Bottom border line again. The frames in the table are now formatted according to APA.

Working with table format templates

For a professional design, Word offers certain table templates that can be applied to an already existing table. To do this, we select the existing table.

In the Table Tools and Design tab, we click on the lower small arrow in the Table Format Templates group.

A palette with different design templates opens. By moving the bar on the right side, the options below can also be viewed. Clicking on a template applies it directly to the selected table.

The selected table now appears in the selected design and can subsequently be customised as described above.

If a table is not to contain headings or only rows and columns of the same colour, this can also be displayed in the Design tab in the Table format options group. There we can activate (tick) or deactivate (no tick) the option by clicking on the boxes.

Use table headings

Finally, a table heading and, if necessary, a signature should be added. To do this, we highlight the entire table.

Right-click to open a menu where we select the option Insert caption….

A separate window opens in which the table heading can be entered and the name and position of the heading can be determined.

In the field Label: we insert the title of the table. For the option Position: we select Above the selected element so that the heading is above the table. The settings are completed with a click on OK.

The title is then displayed above the table.

A wrap (Shift+Enter) places the caption under the title Table 1.

The table itself should be placed in the centre of the page, at a distance from the rest of the text. For sizes and measurements, it is essential to write the corresponding units (€ million, kg, etc.) in the table header.