While almost every technical paper includes some figures,
surprisingly few contain tables. It is true that, in some
typesetting systems (e.g. LaTeX) tables are not so straightforward
to create as they are in HTML, which I'm using to write this page.
Nevertheless, tables present a golden opportunity for the author who is
not a native speaker of English to present information concisely
without the hassle of constructing full sentences.
The 'normal' use of tables, to present numerical data, doesn't need
explaining, but even in this basic context tables could be used more
often. And I will now suggest a couple of two ways to use tables more
creatively.  

Virtually every article in a consumer magazine
such as Which? contains a table that rates different aspects of
the products being surveyed. It is a hugely efficient way to present a
comparison. And the author who is writing in a foreign language
benefits because it reduces the need for grammatical constructions to a
minimum. Some excellent technical authors have used 'comparative
analysis' tables, but nevertheless they are still quite rare. Why? I
don't really know. 
I will show you what a table of this sort
might look like, taken from the Introduction of a fictional
paper: 


Method  Author(s) 
Published  Speed 
Robustness  Comments 
Naive heuristic  (discussed in
Ref. 3)  Infeasible: no implementation
known 
Predictive  Hamm & Egg (2) 
1995  Slow on chi(p_{s}) dataset (4) 
Fails on aligned data and singularities  Basis of first usable
implementations 
Corrective  Kim & Chee (5) 
1998  Slow (authors' tests)  Fails on aligned
data  
Predictivecorrective
(PC)  KartoffelSalat (4) 
2002  Under 20s on chi(p_{s}) dataset 
Fails on aligned data 
Modified predictive  Hamm et al. (3) 
2003  Over 1000s on chi(p) dataset 
Remarkably reliable  Uses interval arithmetic 
Correctivepredictive (CP)  (current
authors)  30s on chi(p_{s}), but faster than PC on
larger datasets  Fails on some singularities  Requires
time to create lookup 
Table 1. Relative performance of recent
approaches to the 'breakfast' problem. 

Logically, a table of this sort could have
another column to explain the various different methods. But in
practice the amount of text required makes this infeasible. However,
the explanations can still be presented in a structured way by
itemizing them in a definition list. A large slice of your literature
review can then be compressed into a short paragraph something like the
following: 

 Several approaches to
the 'breakfast' problem have been published in the literature. The
significant approaches are described below.  

The itemized discussion of each technique
follows here, and then the table is introduced: 

 It has been difficult
to achieve an acceptable combination of speed and robustness. The
significant attributes of recently developed methods, and of the method
reported in this paper, are compared in Table 1. (The
chi(p_{s}) dataset is due to Cook et
al. [1]). 


Since formulae and equations are (more or
less) universal, they are friends to authors writing in a
foreign language. But unfortunately equations still have to be explained.
This can be quite awkward, leading to ugly sentences that start with a
lowercase variable, many terms in brackets ("for all X" etc), and
excessive use of 'arranging' words, such as "respectively".
These problems can be avoided by using a table to itemize and
explain variables. Here it is applied to a very simple example, the
equation of a circle. 

Using text: 
(x  a)^{2} + (y  b)^{2}  r^{2} =
0 (1)
The constants a and b are respectively the x and
y coordinates of the centre of the circle, and r
(r > 0) is its radius. 

Using a table: 
(x  a)^{2} + (y  b)^{2}  r^{2} =
0 (1)
The coefficients in this equation are explained in Table 2.
a  xcoordinate  of the
centre  b  ycoordinate 
r  radius  (r >
0)  Table 2. Coefficients of the
equation (1) of a circle. 

This is a trivial example (HTML offers little
support for typesetting equations) and the second version takes up
substantially more room; nevertheless it is conceptually simpler. The
advantages of using a table grow as the complexity of the equation
increases. Furthermore, the 'cost' of a table can be spread over
several equations which use similar sets of variables.
 