I am working now on my thesis layout. It's computer science thus we use LaTeX. I now think about a table of contents design. By default, LaTeX puts all page numbers in one column, which is right-justified. However, I've heard some thoughts---and also observed in some books---about page numbers being just after the chapter/section name, with a bit of space (and, e.g., some separating character).

I really like the latter. However, is that appropriate? And what could be an argument to use one or another?

P.S. I am attaching as an example of what I am talking about a screenshot of the table of contents from Modern Coding Theory by Richardson and Urbanke:

Richardson, Urbanke. Table of contents

  • An advantage of the number being next to the text: It's easier to see the page number for the section being looked at. The more distance between the text and the number, the harder it is for people to keep track of the alignment. An advantage of aligning them all: some people might say it looks cleaner – Zach Saucier Jul 11 '18 at 14:05
  • Hi Yauhen, Welcome to graphicdesign.stackexchange. We hope you enjoy your stay and look forward to your contributions. – Stan Jul 11 '18 at 15:28

In editorial design, the Index is another graphic element, but must be submitted to a practical criterion: the reader must find easily and immediately what is looking for. Although this depends on several factors, the design object, the kind of design, to whom it is addressed. But being practical, the most important points are:

  • The Total Text Extension
  • The Item Length
  • The Column Width

This can help to get an idea about what could be good or not. But this is always at the designer view. In fact InDesign in its Automatic Table of Contents offers all the possibilities.


Short Item – Narrow Column, both alignments are right, but the right align it's less confuse.

Short text/Narrow Column

Long Item – Narrow Column, in narrow columns, a long text is difficult to read, the change of lines is very continuous, so the last one can get the number at the end avoiding an added effort to the reader.

Long text/Short Column

Short Item – Wide Column, wide columns are not so easy in Index, the best option is not to put the entry number so far.

Short text/Wide Column

Long Item – Wide Column, the worst situation, better avoid. The two kind of alignments are OK, but in the right alignment the number is very far and in the left alignment it is confused with the text.

Long Item – Wide Column

For those extreme cases the option of the underlined tabulator provides an optimal solution not only to the item itself but to the complete index.

Underlined tab

  • 2
    Without appearing like a jerk, could I suggest that the Align-Left examples appear on the left and the Align-Right examples on the right. I'm having an attack of cognitive dissonance. : ) – Stan Jul 11 '18 at 18:47

Yes, Flush-right page numbers for orderly appearance with dot-leaders for readability has been a versatile and utilitarian format for book contents for many decades since the first codexes.

You might also trash those repetitive and unnecessary leading section markers too. Boring and repetitive symbol could be "hung" for the first section and ignored for the remainder.

  • … or just dropped altogether. No reason to have section markers in a ToC. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 11 '18 at 17:02

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