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


The formal tables (summary, reference, and methodological) have headings consisting of identification symbols (numerical or alphabetical); descriptive titles; and, sometimes, headnotes.

Table Identifiers
Tables in Executive Summaries should be lettered alphabetically, and tables in the body of the report should be numbered consecutively. For many reports, simple identifiers such as Arabic numerals in sequence-1, 2, and so on-are the best solution. For example, most NCES reports have a short introductory text, with no chapter numbers needed; one series of tables, requiring identifiers; and one appendix, requiring none. However, distinguishing identifiers are needed for more than one series of tables (such as a few summary tables and reference tables) or more than one appendix. An orderly system that takes account of the table identifiers in relation to the other parts of a report is needed. Without this, much confusion would result in a publication with, for example, as many as three or more separate series of tables (summary, reference, and those in one or more appendices) to distinguish them from or relate them with a series of charts, the appendices themselves, and several chapters.

Readily available for identifiers are Arabic numerals and the English alphabet in uppercase and lowercase. Arabic numerals are easiest to comprehend and can extend easily through any number of table titles. In addition, the tables within a particular series may have sub-series that need to be related. For example, a main or "master" table may show particular data for all postsecondary institutions in the United States, followed by a subseries of tables showing identical kinds of data separately for universities, other 4-year institutions, and 2-year institutions. They should be numbered with a basic identifier and an appropriate suffix that is selected to avoid disrupting the standard numbering system and to bring out the table relationships, as shown in the following example:

    Table 5. All institutions
      Table 5-A. Universities
      Table 5-B. 4-year institutions
      Table 5-C. 2-year institutions

The same scheme might be used for a frequency table showing basic figures followed by a table of percents or medians derived from the basic figures (tables 5 and 5-A).

A slight variation may be used when component parts are shown separately in a series of tables without a master table. These tables are basically a single whole table that is split apart into a series of consecutive tables for convenience. They might be numbered 5-A, 5-B, etc.

    Table 5-A. Publicly controlled institutions
    Table 5-B. Privately controlled institutions

Appendices should be lettered; and tables in appendices should be assigned the letter of the appendix and a number suffix. For example, tables in appendix A should be labeled A-1, A-2, etc.; in appendix B, B-1, B-2, etc. If there is a methodology table for each summary/text table, it is helpful to use the appendix letter followed by a number suffix, where the number corresponds to the text table number.

Wording of Table Titles
Titles are catalogs of content and guides for ready reference. They should tell what, how classified, where, and when. For example:

   What: Basic content and general limits of the group or subgroup that are shown in the table (e.g., enrollments in postsecondary institutions).
How the universe data are classified and cross-classified (e.g., by control of institution, age and sex of student, geographic region, and state).
   Where: Area or space segment, such as political division, geographic area, or other coverage designation if necessary for clarity (e.g., by country, by states, or, perhaps, geographic regions)
   When: Time reference (e.g., 2000; September 1999; academic year 1998-99; various years, 1950-90, etc.)

Thus, we might have:

Table 1.  Full-time equivalent fall enrollment in postsecondary
                institutions, by control and age: By state, 1998

Note the punctuation, a period and two "n" spaces between number and first word are used to separate the title from the table identifier. A comma is used before the "by" classification, with commas separating series of three or more components, including a comma before "and." Finally, a colon is used before "where" or "when" reference (use a comma between where and when if both are present). Note also that, besides proper nouns, the first word of the title and the first word after the colon begin with capital letters.

For the "how classified" segment, a definite order should be used. Start with the data-column heads crossing left to right and top to bottom, then the stub. For example, the title above would fit a table set up like this:

Example of column heads and stubs

If the purpose is to emphasize one of these elements, rewording of the title might better reflect the content. For example, the element that sets this table apart from others in a series might be the control classification. Then the title could read: "Enrollments in publicly and privately controlled institutions of higher education, by age, sex, and state: 1998" leaving out "control" in the classification segment.

The title must never promise more than the table contains, but the table may contain more. To avoid excessive wordiness, generalizations may be used, but table titles should be detailed and explicit enough to differentiate any one table from all others in a report. For example, if the number of items in the classification segment is lengthy and a subset of items are repeated across a series of tables, the table titles might read:

Table 1.  Fall enrollment in elementary and secondary schools, by free
                lunch eligibility and selected characteristics: 1999
Table 2.  Fall enrollment in elementary and secondary schools,
                by minority enrollment and selected characteristics: 1999

The wording should be in topical form, not in sentence form. This means that verbs are omitted from titles, as are articles and other parts of speech that do not convey the basic "numbers of," "percent of," and "distributions of" if the meaning and differentiation from other tables are clear without them. Carefully chosen headnotes and footnotes also may help shorten titles. Abbreviations are used sparingly, and then only those that are commonly accepted or otherwise identified, as in footnotes or text.

Placement of Titles
Start the first line of the title at the left margin and begin each subsequent line under the first word of the title.

Table 1.  The first line of the title extends the first line the width of the
                 table; the second and subsequent lines begin under the first
                 word of the title;

Titles for Multi-page Tables
For each page after the first page of a multi-page table, repeat the table number and the full table title, with the word "¾Continued" added, as follows:

Table 1.  Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary
                education, by function and state: 1995-96¾Continued

In the case of a double-page-spread table the word "¾Continued" is added after the first pair of facing pages.

The headnote¾a general qualifying statement in brackets, centered under the title¾should be used only when it applies to all or almost the entire table or clarifies the contents of the table by expanding or qualifying the title. The headnote ends without a period, even if the last statement is a complete sentence; but internal periods are used if required by sentence structure. (See Tabular Notes.)