Design a table in Word

Word 365
If the document contains tables, it must be formatted according to the requirements accepted by your college, university, company, established on the project, etc. Most requirements, including accessibility, tell that tables should contain titles, column headers, alternate text, etc. In addition, tables must be correctly positioned on the page, using the pre-defined alignment, padding, and text-wrapping guidelines.

Usually, the table contains the following basic components:

  • The table number (e.g., Table 1) and the title appear above the table body (see how to create a caption for tables).
  • The table includes column headings, including a stub heading (heading for the leftmost, or stub, column). Some tables also include column spanners, decked heads, and table spanners. See how to format tables in a Word document.
  • The table body contains all the rows and columns of a table (including the headings row). A cell is the point of intersection between a row and a column. See how to select and format table elements.
  • All types of notes (general, specific, and probability) appear below the table if there are notes. Notes describe contents of the table that cannot be understood from the table title or body alone (e.g., definitions of abbreviations, copyright attribution, etc.).
Example of the table in Word 365

See also how to create cross-references to a table.

Align the table on the page

By default, Word aligns the table to the Left. If you want to change an alignment of the table on the page, select it and do one of the following:

  • On the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, select the alignment you prefer:
    Paragraph group in Word 365
  • Open the Table Properties dialog box by doing one of the following:
    • On the Table Layout tab, in the Table group, click the Properties button:
      Table Properties button in Word 365
    • Right-click the table and select Table Properties... in the popup menu:
      Table Properties in popup menu Word 365

    In the Table Properties dialog box, on the Table tab, in the Alignment section, select the option you prefer:

    Table Properties dialog box in Word 365
  • Press the keyboard shortcuts:
    • Ctrl+L to align a table to the Left (by default),
    • Ctrl+E to Center the table,
    • Ctrl+R to align a table to the Right.

Add indent from left

The Indent from left controls the distance of the table from the left margin. To add the Indent from left, do one of the following:

  • On the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, click the Increase Indent button:
    Increase Indent button in Word 365
  • Open the Properties dialog box. In the Table Properties dialog box, on the Table tab, in the Alignment section, type or choose the value you need in the Indent from left field:
    Indent from left in Table Properties dialog box Word 365

    Note: The Indent from left field is active only for the Left alignment.

For example, the table with a left indent 0.5 inches:

Table with a left indent in Word 365

Text Wrapping for a table

Word offers to customize the text wrapping style for a table, as well as for figures. To customize a text wrapping style, do the following:

   1.   Select a table.

   2.   Open the Table Properties dialog box. In the Table Properties dialog box, on the Table tab, in the Text wrapping section:

  • Select None to disable text wrapping for the table
  • Select the Around option to have text wrapping around the table. Then click the Positioning... button for more customization:
    Positioning in Table Properties dialog box Word 365

    In the Table Positioning dialog box:

    Table Positioning dialog box in Word 365

Position a table

  • In the Horizontal sections, specify:
    • Position to the Left, Right, Center, Inside, or Outside,
    • Relative to the Margin, Page, or Column.

    For example, with Position to the Right relative to Margin:

    Table with Position to the Right relative to Margin in Word 365
  • In the Vertical section, specify:
    • Position to the Top, Bottom, Center, Inside, or Outside,
    • Relative to the Margin, Page, or Column.

    For example, with Position to the Top relative to Page:

    Table with Position to the Top relative to Page in Word 365

Increase the space between text and table

  • In the Distance from surrounding text section, enter custom values for the distance between the text and the table independently for:
    • Top (0 by default),
    • Bottom (0 by default),
    • Left (1.13 inches by default),
    • Right (1.13 inches by default).

    For example, with the 0.3-inch distance on all sides:

    Table with the 0.3-inch distance on all sides in Word 365

Note: See also how to change a distance within a table.


Text wrapping options

  • In the Options section:
    • The Move with text option moves the table along with the text in which it is located.

      Select the Move with Text option if the text is directly related to the table data. The table is vertically aligned to the related paragraph around it. If the table data applies to the whole document, keep the Move with Text option unselected.

    • Allow overlap allows to layer table on top of each other.

Position a large table

If the table is too long for one page, or when a table needs to be placed at the bottom of the page, Word splits it between pages. See How to keep a row of the table on one page in a Word document and How to keep a table on one page of a Word document. Also, most requirements recommend duplicating column headers for every table part.

If the table is too wide to fit on one page, it is necessary to use landscape orientation on the page with the wide table.

Control where a table is split

When working with a long table, or when a table needs to be placed at the bottom of the page, splitting up a table into two separate tables is necessary. By default, if a page break occurs within a large row, Microsoft Word allows a page break to split the line between two pages (see How to prevent a table break between pages).

To insert a table break at a specific location, position the cursor on the cell on the row, or select the row that should appear on the next page, then do one of the following:

  • Press Ctrl+Enter.
  • On the Table Layout tab, in the Merge group, click the Split Table button:
Split Table button in Word 365

Be careful! Word applies the chosen style to the new table. If you Undo the table splitting, the formatting may not be Undone correctly.


Add an Alternative text (Alt Text)

Most requirements recommend adding alternative text for visual objects, including tables (see how to turn off automatically creating the Alternative text).

To add an alternative text for a table, do the following:

   1.   Select a table.

   2.   Do one of the following:

  • On the Table Layout tab, in the Table group, click the Properties button.
  • Right-click the table and select Table Properties... in the popup menu.

   3.   In the Table Properties dialog box, on the Alt Text tab:

Split Table button in Word 365
  • In the Title field, type a title, if necessary.
  • In the Description field, fill the description for the table.
  • Click the OK button.

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