Use Consistent Labels
Numbers without meaning are worthless. Excel is a program for numbers, but it is only useful if it is clear to the reader or user what these numbers mean. So, make sure that you provide all data and formulas of textual information. Let’s call these information labels.
Always Label Your Spreadsheet
Even if you just make a back-of-the-enveloppe calculation, you need to label your small spreadsheet. We can not emphasize enough that the average spreadsheet remains in use for 5 years and is used by an average of 12 different people. By the way, with providing labels, we do not mean the use of Excel Named Ranges/Names. Those have pros and cons, but we will discuss those another time.
Choose Meaningful Labels
Do not just use random names, but think about a consistent system that fits the purpose of the spreadsheet. The shorter the names the better (certainly the column names), but keep them meaningful. We have encountered column names “Rev08”, “Revenue 2008” and “2008 Revenue” in a single spreadsheet. Make a choice! A consistent way of labeling makes it easier and it makes search (CTRL-F) easier. If it is possible, we would start with a letter and not a number in a label. Then Excel knows immediately that it is a label and will not be used in calculations.
Use 1 Row and 1 Column for Naming
When you create a table, name each column and row. If possible, use only 1 row and 1 column for naming and not two because two have all kinds of disadvantages with subsequent editing, for example, sorting the table or creating pivottables. (Only Excel’s chart function can handle double labels on the x-axis very well).
Corporate Naming Schemes
If your company uses spreadsheets widely, it is worthwhile to agree on consistent naming schemes. That makes the spreadsheets become more readable.
How PerfectXL Can Help You
Faithful readers of our guidelines will now wonder: How does PerfectXL help me to use consistent labels? Unfortunately, PerfectXL does not help. You’ll have to do it yourself.