None of the Above

Q. Is there a preferred way to refer in text to a specific column or row in a table? I tend to reuse the text in the column heading or stub entry rather than a number, just because I think it’s clearer that way. For example, “See ‘Countries’ column” rather than “See column 4.” Is that wrong?

A. Not at all. Some tables have numbered rows and columns, in which case “See column 4” is a perfect way to refer to the column. But a reference to a column number when the column heading is a word or phrase would not always be clear (e.g., which is column 1: the table stub or the first column after the stub?), and in a table with many columns, the reader would be forced to count the columns to find the data.