If you create documents in Word with complex layouts, tables are a useful method of arranging your content. You can use the cells in a table to structure your text, images, and even other tables. And yes, you can even nest tables in Word and we’ll show you how.

Using nested tables in Word can make a document more readable by adding more white space to line up text and images. As an example, we’ll create a nested table for part of a procedure from our article about printing a worksheet with comments in Excel.

First, we insert the main table that will contain the steps of the procedure. We write the first step and press “Enter”. We’re going to insert a nested table that describes the situations in which you would choose each option. Before inserting the nested table, we make sure the cursor is placed where we want to insert it.

You can simply insert a table at the cursor; however, you may notice that the top and bottom borders are very close to the surrounding cell. In our example, we have text above the nested table, but the bottom border of the nested table is too close to the bottom border of the containing cell. We need to expand the margins within the cell.

If you inserted a nested table this way, you can press Ctrl+Z to undo the insertion and remove the nested table. We will insert the nested table again after expanding the margins within the cell.

RELATED: How to Select All or Part of a Table in Word

To expand the margins in the cell so the borders of the nested table and the cell are not too close, make sure the cursor is in the cell of the main table where you want to insert the nested table.

NOTE: If you know that you are going to need to expand the margins the same way in other cells of the main table as well, you can select multiple cells in the table. For this example, however, we’re only going to change the margins for one cell.

Click the “Layout” tab.

In the Table section, click “Properties”.

On the Table Properties dialog box, click the “Cell” tab, if it’s not already active.

Click “Options” at the bottom of the Cell tab.

In the Cell margins section on the Cell Options dialog box, click on the “Same as the whole table” check box so there is NO check mark in the box. This activates the Top, Bottom, Left, and Right edit boxes, which contain the values for the four margins in the selected cell. By default (in Word 2016), the Top and Bottom margins are “0” and the Left and Right are “0.08”. These values might differ in earlier versions of Word. Enter new values for the margins, especially the Top and Bottom margins. We used “0.1” for all the margins in our cell. Click “OK”.

You are returned to the Table Properties dialog box. Click “OK” to close it.

Now, you can insert a table in that cell and enter your content. The nested table sits nicely in the cell in your main table.

To further enhance your table layout, you can add borders to all or parts of cells, add shading in different colors, merge and split cells, and even freeze the size of some or all of the cells in a table. You can also have multiple layers of nested tables, but be careful. Too many layers of nested tables can make for a confusing layout.

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Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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