Creating columns of decimal-aligned numbers
A thoughtful approach to aligning columns of numbers provide a few benefits to the presenter and audience:
- Decimal-aligned numbers allow comparisons to be made quickly
- Outliers (very large and very small numbers) can be easily identified
- Left-aligned numbers that are also decimal aligned provide a clean and discernible column, even without the help of divider lines.
The graphic on the right shows all of the guidelines for creating a left-aligned and decimal-aligned column of numbers. The unit signs ($ in this case) are in the first row and the total row only. Notice that the dollar sign is perfectly left-aligned with the column heading. The largest number in the column is perfectly left-aligned in the column, even though it is also decimal aligned. The negative numbers are perfectly aligned. The bold totals are perfectly left aligned as well as decimal aligned. This is a professional approach to formatting columns of numbers
The easiest way to enter and format columns of numbers is as follows:
- Enter in all of the numbers first – don't worry about the formatting.
- Make sure that your text is left-aligned in the cells
- If you are entering the first number in the column, type the dollar sign. Omit the dollar signs in all other cells except the cell that contains the total for the column
- Enter a Ctrl-Tab – don't worry if it bounces your numbers around
- Then enter the numbers and the decimal point (if you don't need a decimal point, omit it – the decimal alignment will still work).
- Enter negative numbers using a minus sign instead of parentheses.
- Don't bold column totals yet.
This technique is useful with the text tables in TT005.