5 Tips for Improving Spreadsheet Readability

Have you noticed that some spreadsheets are easier to read than others? Of course, there isn’t much to read in most spreadsheets just column and row labels and formulas. So why do some spreadsheet authors seem to have a magic touch? They just know and follow these five simple rules:

1. Be Consistent. Many names can be expressed in more than one way. Pick one and use it in all the spreadsheets you create.

2. Be Brief. Short names are easier to read than long ones. Be careful, however, not to brief, names should also be easy for readers to define and not easily mistaken for something else.

3. Be Smart. Pick names that won’t need to be changed every month or year, such as MonthlyProfit or 1QTaxes (1st Quarter Taxes).

4. Be Specific. General names such as Sales or Taxes can apply to any number of things. NetSales and SalesTax can’t.

5. Pronounecability. OK, most people don’t read spreadsheets aloud. But they do ask questions, using names that can be said, they will also easily be read.

This article is reprinted from AccountingWEB's Weekly Business Bite of September 13, 2005.


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