Skip Navigation

Statistical Standards
Statistical Standards Program
Table of Contents
1. Development of Concepts and Methods
2. Planning and Design of Surveys
3. Collection of Data
4. Processing and Editing of Data
5. Analysis of Data / Production of Estimates or Projections
6. Establishment of Review Procedures
7. Dissemination of Data
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C

·Sample Table
·Major Types of Tables
·Tabular Format
·Table Titles
·Table Stub
·Tabular Notes
·Sizing a Table
Appendix D
Publication information

For help viewing PDF files, please click here


Body, or field, is the part of a table that contains the numerical data-below the column heads and to the right of the stub. It consists of cells, rows, and columns. A cell is the space occupied by one entry in the field. A row is a horizontal array of cells opposite a stub caption. A column is a vertical array of cells under a column heading.

Units of Measurement in the Body
Units of measurement usually do not appear in the body. The preferred places for units of measurement are in a headnote, if they apply to all or nearly all of the table (see Headnotes) or in the boxhead, if they vary by column (see Units of Measurement in the Column Head).

Spanners are multicolumn headings that cross the table within the field instead of in the boxhead. In the summary table below, the column heads at the top of the table apply to all levels in the field. The field spanner is most useful when emphasis on a change of category is needed and the label applies directly to the data in the field. They should not be used when they apply to the stub-entry classification.

Table 1.  Number and percentage distribution of families, by family
                status and presence of own children under 18: Current
                Population Survey, 1970 to 1998

Table 1. Number of families, by Family status for 1970, 1980, and 1998 with percent change between the years


Field spanners sometimes are used to reduce the length and increase the width of very narrow and long tables. They also may be used for placing long major group captions in the field when there is not enough room for them in the stub. These advantages are offset to some extent by their unfavorable location in the field where they break across the columns and separate the figures from the descriptive column headings.

Decimals, Zeros, and Dollar and Percent Signs
In a column of figures containing decimal fractions, figures of less than 1 have a zero (0) to the left of the decimal point. However, do not use a zero before a decimal fraction when the number cannot be greater than 1 (e.g., levels of statistical significance, proportions, or correlations). If there are whole numbers (numbers without decimal fractions) in the column, they are recorded with a decimal and zero to the right of the decimal point. All figures in a table that are reported in the same unit of measurement should report data to the same decimal value. If the column consists entirely of whole numbers, do not use decimal points and zeroes. The recorded number of decimal places should offer no greater degree of precision than is warranted by the data (see Standard 5-3, NCES Statistical Standards, 2002).

As shown below, the only exception to these rules is that in the case of a universe survey an absolute zero (0) is always expressed as a single zero without a decimal point; in a column of decimal fractions, it is positioned as shown.

Table A with one decimals, Table B with two decimals, Table C with no decimals. All right justified and all express zero with no decimal portion.

When all of the figures in a column pertain to money, the first figure in the column should be preceded by a dollar sign ($), even though the column heading or a headnote indicates the unit of measurement (e.g., millions of dollars).

A percent sign (%) should not follow figures in the field. If all are percentages, the fact may be indicated in a headnote: if some columns or lines are percents, indicate in a spanner, individual column heads, stub entry, or title, as appropriate (e.g., "in percent"). The word "percent" instead of "percentage" is preferred in this context; the symbol (%) should be used only if there is no room to spell it out.

Placing Figures in the Columns
Allow a minimum of one space on each side of an entry. Entries should be aligned at the right-hand side¾including absolute zero in number columns. For two-line stub captions, entries are placed opposite the second line. Leave no cell empty; if a number is not available, insert the appropriate explanatory special symbol in the cell. (See list in Special Notes.)

Arranging Figures for Ease of Comparison
The closer numbers are to each other, the easier it is to compare them. Vertical comparisons usually can be made more rapidly than horizontal comparisons. In the following example of universe data, arrangements A and B both are satisfactory, but the vertical listing in A is more effective because it is much easier to locate the largest and smallest numbers and to determine differences in the general sizes of the numbers.

Example A with numbers in vertical listing and example B with numbers in horizontal listing

The following tabulations show identical universe data, but the vertical comparison in B emphasizes the within item comparisons over time.

Examples of comparisons. Table A Item by Year. Table B Year by Item.

In any table, the comparisons that are the most important should be placed as close together as possible for maximum emphasis.