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Gulf of St. Lawrence: Labeling Islands
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Several islands and groups of islands are shown in this map, there are some basic conventions to follow in labeling them.
Islands and groups of islands are shown on this map. Some basic cartographic conventions were used to label them.

What: Maps that show islands should include the names for only those islands that are geographically important on the map. Often island names are omitted from maps made in GIS software. However, this should not deter as they can be quickly added to the map manually.

Why: It is as important to label islands on your map as it is to label political boundaries or the names of countries. Islands are reference features the readers use to orient themselves and they are also important to your depiction of the geography of the area. Omitting them will imply to the reader that they are unimportant. Also, if your readers expect to see the names, and they are missing, your readers may suspect that there are additional omissions on your map and they may begin to question its reliability.

How: Since there were not too many islands that required labels on this map we chose to place them manually. We consulted several atlases to confirm the spelling and location of the islands on this map and created new text elements in an annotation group that we created to hold our island names and the names of other important features.

Here is some general guidance for placing island names:

  • There is no need to redundantly label an island as a geographic feature when its name is the same as the state, province, country, or administrative unit that also shares the same location, such as Prince Edward Island in the image above.
  • If you are mapping an area where the parent country varies for your islands or is not apparent to the reader, you should add this information to the label. Cartographers conventionally place this under the label and set it off from the name of the island with parentheses or font color. Also, because the name of the island is contextually more important than the name of the parent country, the country name is often shown with a smaller font size.
  • If space allows label the island as you would a polygon by placing the name completely within the land mass. For example, Anticosti Island in the above image fits completely within the polygon. If needed abbreviate the word Island to Is. or Isl. The convention used in this map exactly followed one of the atlases we consulted when we verified the island names.
  • For groups of islands, like the Magdalen Islands in the map above, place the label so that the reader can easily associate the feature with its label. In th example here, tucking the label into the open space to the east of the island group serves that purpose.
  • For long islands, or island chains, position the label along the long axis of the feature. If the island is nearly vertically oriented, like Cape Breton Island in the map above, be sure the reader is reading up the page if the feature is on the left side of the page and down the page if the feature is on the right; or opt to stack the label as we did because road features, in our case, would have disrupted the label.
  • Islands are land features that by their nature are associated with hydrography. Therefore, one cartographic convention is to use an italic font, as is often done when lableing hydrographic features, when labeling islands.


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