Most of us tend to layer a table between paragraphs of text—I know I usually do. The figure below shows the typical placement of a simple table in a document. The table follows a paragraph of explanatory or introductory text.

You might not realize that you can position a table in a paragraph and wrap text around the table. This next figure shows the result of dragging the table into the paragraph. By default, the table’s Text Wrapping property is None and the table aligns to the left margin of the page. When I dropped it into the paragraph, Word changed the property so Word could wrap the text around the table. Word does the best it can, but the results aren’t always a perfect fit. Fortunately, you’re not stuck.

The first thing you can do is move the table around a bit more—especially if the placement doesn’t have to be exact. By moving the table around just a little, you’ll probably hit upon a better balance. (Most likely, I wouldn’t break up the middle of a paragraph with a table, but for the sake of the example, please play along.)

Word does a good job of defining properties when you drag the table to position it. However, if a little drag action doesn’t produce a mix you can live with, you can force settings that are more exact. To access these properties, right-click the table, choose Table Properties, and click the Table tab (if necessary). First, make sure the Text Wrapping property is set to Around. If you want the table flush to the left or right, change the Alignment to Left or Right. The example table is centered.

Click the Positioning button. In the resulting Table Positioning dialog box, you can set the following properties:

  • The horizontal position of the table, relative to a column, margin, or page.
  • The vertical position of the table, relative to a paragraph, margin, or page.
  • The distance of the table from the surrounding (wrapped) text.
  • Whether the table should move with the text.
  • Whether the text can overlap the table.

The best way to learn about these properties is to just experiment. For instance, setting a Right property of 3 removes the text to the right of the table—remember when I said I probably would not want a table to break up text? Well, this is one way to get the text inside the paragraph, without breaking up the text. I just reset one property!

As you experiment, you’ll probably find, as I have, that dragging a table around produces a pretty good balance. It’s good to know though, that you can force things along a bit by setting the positioning properties.