Writing for Business and Industry



Figures and Tables

In-text references of figures and tables

All figures and tables used in a document should be references in the text. Follow these rules when referencing a figure or table.

Place the figure or table as soon after the reference as possible.

The graphic should appear as soon after the reference as possible. Ideally, it comes after the paragraph with the reference. However, because of size or the paragraph's position on the page, it might be pushed to the next page. But don't leave blank space at the bottom of a page, continue with the text and place the graphic at the top of the next page.

When you are first writing the text, just put the graphic after the paragraph that references it and move it to the proper place to control the page breaks later. The difficulty with placing graphics at specific spots on the page is problem with Word, if you get to use Frame, you'll find that it lets you simply say "float to top of next page."

Figures must fit within the margins

Figures must fit within the page margins. It looks very unprofessional to have figures that extend into the margins.

If you are using real cut & paste (think cutting a picture out and taping it onto a sheet of paper), it is very easy to get the image in the margin unless you conciously think about it. When you do this you just:

Examples of poorly placed images


Writing figure captions

Figures that are smaller than the column width can be centered or set flush left, but you must be consistent.

Figure captions.

All figures should be labelled. Figure captions appear after the figure. The caption has three parts, of which two are required.

Figure number. All figures should be numbered.

Figure title. Give the figure a title. Make the title descriptive enough so that the reader can tell what the figure's about from the title. Longer documents might have a table of figures at the front with all the titles listed (sort of like a table of contents). Don't just have a graphic labelled as Figure 1.

Explanatory text. This is all the text that comes after the title. Be sure to actually give a title before starting the explanatory text.

Good Examples:

Figure 1. Average grade point by major.

Fig 1. Average grade point by major.

Figure 1. Average grade point by major. This data was collected by analyzing scores of graduates from 1995-1999.

Bad Examples:

Figure 1.
No title.

Figure 1. This data of average grade points was collected by analyzing scores of graduates from 1995-1999.
Gives a good description, but doesn't have a title.

Figure 1. Bar chart showing the change of enrollment.
The reader can see it's a bar chart. Don't describe the type of graphic, describe the information being given. A better title would be something like "Enrollment changes from 2001-2005"

Writing table captions

Table are titled just like figures with the exception that table titles go at the top of the table.

Number figures and tables seperately. If the graphic isn't a table, it's a figure.

Tables are used for columns of number data.

Example of figure caption

Example of table caption


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