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I am writing a textbook and am in the process of making final adjustments, such as the positioning of figures and tables.

I know the basics: figures and tables need to be at the top or bottom of the page. However, I'm concerned about fine-tuning. I have three questions:

  1. figures are always at the top, which makes sense because captions are below the figure and captions are very close to the text. However, does this mean that tables should be at the bottom? The captions are above the tables and if you put the tables at the bottom, the captions are closer to the text.

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  1. what is the best styling in the situation where you have two unrelated figures on the same page? From a contextual perspective, one should be at the top and the other at the bottom because they are unrelated. But from a caption perspective, they should both be on top, since the caption is closer to the text in this case.

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  1. what is the best styling when the page is divided by a new section and the figure belongs to the new section? From the contextual perspective, the figure should be at the bottom because it belongs to the bottom section. However, from the caption perspective, the figure should be at the top because the caption is closer to the text in this case.

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Do you have any ideas for this situation?

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    Won't the publisher decide the style for you? – astronat Feb 11 at 15:11
  • I wanted to have full control over how the result looks like (everything is done in LaTeX and tikz, including all figures), so we came to an agreement that I provide camera ready manuscript. – Pygmalion Feb 11 at 15:15
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    Since you are in full control I suggest you decide each figure or table placement by looking at the local context to see what makes sense. There might be places where \here (in line) is right, even in the middle of a page. – Ethan Bolker Feb 11 at 15:31
  • @EthanBolker Does this means that position of captions is irrelevant for the decision? – Pygmalion Feb 11 at 15:47
  • I would keep the conventional captions under the figures, wherever you choose to put the figures. As a global response to your question: I think you are overthinking things. Your readers will be fine whatever you decide. – Ethan Bolker Feb 11 at 16:15
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The simple answer is that it doesn't really matter, as long as you're consistent about how you do it.

If you stick with the LaTeX defaults, the figure will always go to the top of each page, and that's a perfectly reasonable convention. If you shift to placing things "nearest", that's fine as well, but will take more care on your part, since it's easy to end up with unexpected shifts caused by distant upstream changes.

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  • This is why I am making this last moment adjustments. There will be no more change whatsoever to the text. – Pygmalion Feb 11 at 15:44
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This will depend very much on your style guide and on the expectations of your publisher. In general, the meta-rules are

  • consistency - choose a standard and stick with it

  • accessibility - choose a standard that provides a better user experience

For instance, in the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, the chapter on Tables and Figures gives the following guidance on placement in-text (7.6):

  • "When embedding a table or figure within the text, position it after a full paragraph, ideally the paragraph where it is first called out."

  • "Place the table or figure so that it fits on one page if possible."

  • "If text appears on the same page as a table or figure, add a double-spaced blank line between the text and the table or figure so that the separation between the text and table or figure is easier to see."

  • "Put a short table or small figure at the beginning or end of a page rather than in the middle."

So APA would allow any of the placements proposed, provided that the table or figure fit after the paragraph which referred to it. (That paragraph could be on the bottom of the same page or the top of the next page.) Multiple tabes or figures on the same page are not an issue as long as they both fit and are formatted similarly as possible.

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