Are your drawings SHOUTING?

This post was inspired by a question raised by Jamie Myers in the CAD Managers Unite! Facebook group.

Long ago, before CAD was in common use, I was taught technical drawing at school. One of the things I was taught was to follow drafting standards, BS308 at the time. Later, I was expected to follow AS1100. One of the things I was taught was to always use capital letters in text on drawings, using the approved ISO font. Without a machine, without a template. This stuck to me to such an extent that even today I use all caps when handwriting notes. Note to wife? Caps. Shopping list? Caps. I can’t help it, it’s hardwired.

Let’s do that paragraph again, this time using the case as it would be seen on most drawings in my experience, and as I would automatically tend to enter it on a drawing:

LONG AGO, BEFORE CAD WAS IN COMMON USE, I WAS TAUGHT TECHNICAL DRAWING AT SCHOOL. ONE OF THE THINGS I WAS TAUGHT WAS TO FOLLOW DRAFTING STANDARDS – BS308 AT THE TIME. LATER, I WAS EXPECTED TO FOLLOW AS1100. ONE OF THE THINGS I WAS TAUGHT WAS TO ALWAYS USE CAPITAL LETTERS IN TEXT ON DRAWINGS, USING THE APPROVED ISO FONT. WITHOUT A MACHINE, WITHOUT A TEMPLATE. THIS STUCK TO ME TO SUCH AN EXTENT THAT EVEN TODAY I USE ALL CAPS WHEN HANDWRITING NOTES. NOTE TO WIFE? CAPS. SHOPPING LIST? CAPS. I CAN’T HELP IT, IT’S HARDWIRED.

Show those paragraphs to 100 people in the street and ask them which is the most legible, and I’m pretty sure the mixed-case one will be chosen by the vast majority. It also uses up less space, which can be an issue on a crowded drawing.

You wouldn’t use all caps on the Internet unless you were SHOUTING because otherwise you would be mistaken for one of those unhinged conspiracy theorists. Just as I’m hardwired to write in upper case, I’m also hardwired to skip blocks of upper case text on the Internet (e.g. Terms of Use) without even attempting to read it.

Why, then, do so many of us still use ALL CAPS in drawings? Inertia? Standards?

There are some legitimate arguments that can be made to support the continued use of upper case on drawings. I was taught that capitals were used to ensure that when a drawing was reproduced, taken out on site and subjected to folds, dirty fingers and oil stains, the chances of something being rendered illegible was smaller in the case of a capital letter. It has been pointed out that ‘up’ and ‘dn’ are identical when inverted. Quick, is ‘l’ an upper case I or a lower case L?

I understand all caps usage varies substantially from country to country and the language used will also make a difference.

Let’s have your viewpoint on this subject. Please comment and/or pick a poll option. It’s a deliberately binary poll so you can’t fudge and have to pick one, and it’s about which one you think is better (most suited for purpose), not which one you use.

What case convention is better in drawings?

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8 Comments

  1. BlackBox

    The office in which I now work has utilized ‘Leroy’ sized ALL CAPS of same text height for both existing and proposed annotations – I’m the first working there to unilaterally change it so that my existing annotations are Title Case in a smaller text height for immediate visual clarity.

    Also, in your poll below Mixed Case appears to be Sentence case; Title Case, and lower case are missing. Haha

    1. Steve Johnson

      Yes, by mixed case I mean sentence case. I didn’t think it worth specifying which form of mixed case I meant, because there is only one realistic option for drawings.

      Title Case Makes No Sense Except for Titles.

      surely nobody is proposing the use of all lower case in drawings?

  2. BlackBox

    No worries; just ribbing you on poll options. Haha

    For block notes, I agree with you; Sentence case for existing, but ALL CAPS for proposed here (per the owner).

    Thankfully for me, he actually liked the use of Title Case for annotations (labels, heavily abbreviated); when we sat and compared Sentence case for labels, only a few words ended up being lower case using Sentence case due to abbreviations he went with my recommendation of a Title Case.

    I can’t see anyone using all lower csse, but mentioned it as I’m a fan of TCASE. Haha

    Cheers

  3. James Maeding

    Part of the problem is mixed case is hard to read on half sized prints. We abbreviate many things like STA ELEV FH WM as you know so having all caps tends to make things look consistent. HOWEVER, I push on people to use proper, or “title” case for filenames. We are modern engineers, not DOS cavemen limited to 8 characters. My favorite thing is still fishing and a campfire though!

  4. MP

    Like RK, I was taught blanket uppercase (UC) Leroy stencilling (in the early 80s) so when I see mixed case (MC) annotation on drawings it always looks odd to me. O.o

    That said, the judicious use of MC annotation sprinkled with select UC phrases where applicable may bring improved clarity and emphasis.

    Standardizing MC annotation however may be daunting as what “looks professional”, “provides clients, vendors and construction the best clarity” etc. may be subjective depending upon the stakeholder or where the drawing is viewed, e.g. 1/2 size print in the field.

    Which may be why the old dogs just said “ALL UPPERCASE — END OF DISCUSSION”.

    Finally, the last thing I’d want to do in the current economic climate is introduce anything that gets pushback from any stake holders in the drawing food chain or causes delays due to re-work, review, discussion etc.

    So … is now the time to abandon blanket UC annotation? For Oil & Gas engineering: Highly doubtful.

    An aside, given the topic you may find this swamp post amusing: http://bit.ly/2C2z3aA

    Cheers.

    MP

  5. Maybe drafting standards should evolve to match the educational and social standards of the next brood of pixel pushers. All lower case, no punctuation, individualized random abbreviations, and little grunty cartoon faces. All in the pursuit of secure communication.

    I tried to ask you about the elderly gentleman standing next to the Gent dagger display case, but the captcha thingie was bashful.

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