14 responses

  1. Marek
    August 5, 2010

    There is a small problem with the link to the pdf.

    Besides that – great rules!


  2. XL-Dennis
    August 5, 2010

    Interesting list which is not complete but is better than nothing 😉

    What should be added is:
    Add a time stamp when the data was collected the last time. In that way we can evaluate if the data is still valid or if it has become obsolete.

    Measure the quality of the data. If many rows lack entries for central parameters than the outcome should be treated as indications only and not as the “true”.
    In this context I would address the importance of keeping it simple, very simple.

    For larger solutions create manuals (i.e. help files) for them. By writing instructions on how to use larger solutions tend to reveal the logic of the solutions.

    Think “Green”; instead of printing on paper print, for instance, to PDF files.

    Kind regards,


  3. Bill
    August 5, 2010

    Good summary!
    Except for the spreadsheet specific items, the chart could well be labeled as Rules for Making Better Charts/Graphs/Reports/Tables.


  4. Glen Feechan
    August 5, 2010

    Great list with some very useful rules. In fact, I will be linking to it from my blog. One I would add is what I call my OAP rule. I always advise my clients to separate out the job into three separate stages, Obtain the data, Analyse it, Present it.

    By storing the data in its raw format, analysing it using tools such as VLOOKUP and Pivot Tables and presenting it in those pivot tables or using, say, GETPIVOTDATA<, you can present the same data in any way required.

    When the job is not split out in this way, the tendency is to do all this in one sheet. When you are then asked to present the data in a slightly different way, you are pretty much back to square one.


  5. notBRL
    August 5, 2010

    Using named ranges in formulas helps immensely, especially if someone has to decipher your formula at some distant time in the future.

    Go way easy on color, both font and cell interior. Bright colors can cause severe injury to old eyes and lead to great irritation and general grumpiness. Going nuts using multiple font styles and sizes will also not endear you to someone who has to READ and WORK with your spreadsheet.


  6. kaliman
    August 6, 2010

    Good points made.

    I’m not sure if this fits here, but I would really love to start a campaign preventing people to leave empty sheets on excel files, I always have to go over sheet2 and sheet3 just to verify I’m not missing anything. Now everybody has updated it’s preferences to start with only one sheet per book.

    Am I to picky for noticing this?


  7. Chandoo
    August 9, 2010

    @Marek: Thanks for pointing it out. I have fixed it.

    @XL-Dennis: Good points. I agree that keeping your files, applications simple is key to success. Any one can complicate things, it takes guts to simplify stuff.

    @Glen: Thanks for the link. I like your OAP rule 🙂 Simple and easy to use.

    @notBRL: good points on using less color and fewer styles. Actually, I recommend using just 2 fonts – one for titles and one for content.

    @Kaliman: Agree, I usually set one sheet as the default number from excel options. This way I dont have to delete them everytime.


  8. raghwendra
    August 17, 2010

    nice article


  9. Mick C
    August 30, 2010

    Minor point I know, but “…define in one sentence or less why you are creating…” even one word is technically a sentence – you can’t have less than one sentence !


  10. Mick C
    August 30, 2010

    Kaliman – spot on re:leaving empty sheets. You’re quite correct – in doing any spreadsheet audit work, it is mandatory to check all sheets for data (including that old favourite hidden sheets – not to mention hidden rows and columns / data and comments formated in white font etc.)


  11. malen
    October 11, 2012

    I use to assume my spread sheets just made sense to everyone else who did not live in my head, but I shortly realized that it was not the case. And therefor I’m now a big fan of adding notes to explain my self. I also love all the little tricks I learned, you can never know too many specially since they do cut down on the amount of time you spend working. I’m very thankful for post like this one that helped me get going. I also got allot of great help form <a href=”http://www.reportingguru.com/”> Reporting Guru </a> they are a great resource when it comes to any type of reporting system


  12. borisivan
    March 23, 2015

    Why does the poster for Larry’s rules have the rule numbers inexplicably jump to the right side of the poster halfway through? Gross.


  13. Clive
    March 23, 2016

    “Learn to use the intermediate level functions within Excel. These include: sum, sumif, macro’s, logic (if”

    ‘macro’s’ is not possessive but plural, therefore: macros.


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