Add spacing and color in all the right places to enhance your Word table’s readability


by Julie Duncan

Application: Microsoft Word2016

Operating System: Microsoft Windows

Even in Word, your tables should provide quick, easy-to-digest information. But text-heavy tables in your documents can end up missing the mark. White space and color, placed appropriately within a table,provide just the contrast your reader’s eye needs.

To improve a table’s appearance and utility, we’ll:

  • Add space to table cells in two different ways.
  • Make better use of existing white space by changing cell text alignment.
  • Add a pop of color to a plain black-and-white table.

Well-designed tables allow readers to find the information they need without having to work too hard. Although the grid format of a table naturally tends to make tables accessible, sometimes rows and rows of text can bog a table down until it almost loses its purpose, appearing to blend in with the paragraphs of document text this visual element ought to break up. Fortunately, you can add white space within your table cells and use a couple of other formatting tricks to help your table achieve its objective—conveying information in a fast, effective way, as shown in Figure A.

Because each table is unique, you’ll need different tools for each table you create. We’ll walk you through all the formatting options and let you determine which ones best suit your table.


IME18703A1 IME18703A2


Additional space makes this table’s information more accessible, and color draws the eye to natural groupings.


Adjust cell margins

You may choose to adjust the cell margins in your table. You can pick and choose between adding space to the top, bottom, left, and right of your table cells. For example, you could add space just to the top of each cell in your table. Keep in mind that changing the margin of one cell changes every cell in your table.

 To change cell margins:

  1. Click in the table.
  2. On the Table Tools Layout contextual tab, in the Alignment group, click on Cell Margins.
  3. The default cell margins you’ll see in the resulting Table Options dialog box are 0 for Top and Bottom, and 0.08” for Left and Right.
  4. Change the Top and Bottom margins to 0.08”. Click OK.

Observe the change to your table, which will resemble our table in Figure B. If you’d like to see the change again, use [Ctrl]Z and [Ctrl]Y to toggle between the default margins and your new margins. Repeat steps 1 through 4 if you’d like to add even more space to your cell margins. Experiment with larger margins until you achieve the result you’re after.




Increasing cell margins is a simple way to add white space to tables.


Increase paragraph spacing

Within tables, you can add space between paragraphs, just as you can in other parts of your Word document. The content within each cell is considered a paragraph, or multiple paragraphs if you use the [Enter] key to separate text. This approach works better than increasing cell margins if:(1) you want to adjust spacing on a cell-by-cell basis only, (2) you have more than one paragra[...]

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