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Loyola University Chicago Libraries

Spreadsheet Therapy

Principles of "data tidiness" to make spreadsheets easier to manage, use, and understand.

Sheet-level tips

  • Use only one row for column headers
  • Put each variable in its own column
    • Keep similar/related columns together
  • Put each observation/instance in its own row
  • Don't skip rows or columns
  • Don't rely highlighting, fonts, or colored text to encode meaning in your spreadsheet
    • Okay for helping you and other humans understand the data
    • If a machine needs to know about it, it needs to be represented by characters in a cell
  • Don't merge cells