Monthly Archives: April 2015

Footnotes – not a fan

Footnotes at the bottom of a page can be used to provide references or additional information such as an explanation or clarification.

I am not a fan of footnotes at the bottom of a page as they don’t contribute to clear communication. It is distracting for readers to leave the text, go to the bottom of the page to read a note usually in smaller font, then try to return to their place in the text. Then repeat several times on a page. And on the next page and the next.

When considering footnotes, ask yourself: How important is the information? If it is very important, worth saying and you want readers to read it, then put it in the text, not as a footnote. If it is not important, leave it out. This suggestion applies to both brief, infrequent footnotes and longer, more frequent footnotes.

For footnotes which are references, consider using the author date style for referencing in the text. If important explanatory notes are required, consider listing them either at the beginning of the document or at the end of the chapter or document.

Tips for top tables

Tables can supplement or summarise text and make your document easier to read and your message easier to follow. You may need to try a few different formats to see which one works best for your data and message.

Tips for designing tables

  • Use the right format, size and layout for the purpose.
  • Use a consistent format across multiple tables including titles, column and row headings, and notes.
  • Experiment with font size, vertical and horizontal lines, and white space.

Tips for labelling tables

  • Include a detailed title for the table.
  • Include explanatory notes for the source and date of the data, and for row and column headings.
  • Ensure the units of measurement for data are clear.

Tips for placing tables

  • Place tables after they are first mentioned in the text.
  • Place tables at the end of a paragraph, not in the middle of a paragraph.
  • Do not split a table over a page unless the table is unavoidably longer than a page.

Most of these tips also apply to fabulous figures. Take care that colours and shadings used in figures are distinct and legible.