Examples and Tips
The table of missed opportunity
We found this table on page 39 of Winchester District Economic and Employment Land Study Final Report [PDF 2.1Mb], published by SQW, a London-based economics and social development consultancy.
The design fails to use layout to give the reader clues about patterns and exceptions in the data.
A few simple changes make the readers' task much easier. These changes are based on the rules of plain figures, taught on our one-day courses.
Firstly, order rows by size. This allows readers to see patterns and exceptions in the data. For example, in most industries the numbers employed are projected to increase over the years but this is not the case in agriculture or in electricity, or in gas and water, where numbers are projected to fall substantially.
Secondly, use layout to guide the eyes. Let white space (a blank column) separate the actual figures (2006) from the projected figures. Also, single space tables - numbers close to each other are more conveniently and accurately compared. For the same reason, keep the table narrow.
Finally, present data conventionally. Instead of using the confusing "2.26 thousand", use "2,300". Round to two digits; use variable rounding.