For an article that I want to publish, I would like to report the results from a survey in a table format but I do not know if I should put Zero or just a blank space/dash (-) whenever the score/percentage is zero. I cannot find any requirements from the journal concerning this issue. I cannot find any articles from that journal that would help me with this issue. How should I proceed? Any ideas?

  • Ask the journal itself for guidance. There's not going to be a universal practice for this. – virmaior Mar 1 at 23:37

Use a zero. A dash or blank space could be misinterpreted as 'not applicable' or 'missing data'.

  • 2
    A footnote can dispel that misinterpretation, of course. – Buffy Mar 1 at 13:19
  • 2
    Sure, but why dispell what you can avoid. – henning Mar 1 at 13:22
  • I am presenting some descriptive statistics in the table and for some observations the result is zero and as those zeros serve like gap identification I though that a dash might be a good solution because it is more visible but thatnk you for your comments henning I will stick to them and I will report zero values – Jonathan Gray Mar 1 at 13:58

If there is no guidance from the journal, use your own judgement. Look at several versions. A table showing insignificant (i.e. zero) results could be "busy" if there are a lot, but otherwise just fine.

Choose a version that makes it as easy as possible for the reader to grasp the important results.

Among other things, consider what happens if the table gets split over multiple printed pages. Make sure that it is easy to see which result in the body matches with labels and such in the margins.

If you break any of the journal's rules accidentally, I'm pretty sure you will be asked for an alternate version. Reviewers may comment as well.


Use a zero if that is just the numerical answer. (E.g. Number of Nobel Prizes won by poster guest.) Use a dash or preferably something like "not applicable" or "not measured" (abbreviated) if that is more the case.

Note, I do use - in some PPT tables in a business setting. But, I don't think they are optimal in a technical report. Try to be more precise (but still terse). You are writing for archived technical literature and you want people to understand if the answer was zero or just not measured.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.