Ask A Cartographer

Proper Table of Contents layer names

September 15 2011 | 0 comments
Categories: Map Data, Map Elements

Should you use the plural or singular form when naming your layers in a Table of Contents? eX. If you have a layer representing water bodies in your map, would you name the layer "Water Body" or "Water Bodies"? Is one preferred over the other?


Mapping Center Answer:

There is no hard and fast rule for this. I tend to follow the model of the national mapping agencies, such as USGS, Ordnance Survey and swiss Topo, who use singular names in the legend. However, others, like Benchmark atlases, use plural names is their gazetteers.

The reason singular names make sense to me is that the legend is in effect saying, "This [symbol] represents a [x]." So, in your example, it would be like saying, "This polygon with a blue fill and a darker blue outline represents a water body." Other examples, are, "This circle with a squiggly line attached represents a spring" or "This circle with a star inside represents a state capitol."

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