Monday, October 8, 2012

Are We Men (and Women) or Are We Monks?

From Wikipedia:
The at sign or Astricks @ is also commonly called the at symbol or commercial at in English—and less commonly a wide range of other terms. The fact that there is no single word in English for the symbol has prompted some writers to use the French arobase or Spanish arroba—or to coin new words such as asperandampersat—but none of these have achieved wide currency.
Originally an accounting and commercial invoice abbreviation meaning "at the rate of" (e.g. 7 widgets @ $2 = $14), in recent years, its meaning has grown to include the sense of being "located at" or "directed at", especially in email addresses and social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Medieval monks abbreviated the Latin word ad (at, toward, by, about) next to a numeral. One reason for this abbreviation was that it saved space and ink. Since thousands of pages of Bible documents were copied onto expensive papyrus or hides, and the words at, toward, by and about repeated millions of times throughout the ages, a considerable amount of resources could be spared this way. 
In architectural drafting (hand drafting) many were taught to use this symbol as shorthand for "spacing":
  • 1/2" A.B. @ 32" o.c.
  • 11 Risers @ 7 1/2"
Somewhere along the timeline, after the transition to CAD, practitioners began to use the symbol where its meaning was not spacing but location; for example - Building Section @ Lobby.

In hand drafting there is some defense for this practice. It saved time and graphite - just like in medieval times!
But we are now in the 21st century!
It takes the same amount of time or less to type the letters "AT" than to hold the shift key while pressing "@". Certainly not more. Nothing is being saved.
Of these examples, which looks better? Which is easiest to read?
  • Window Sill at Fiber Cement Siding**
One of the benefits of implementing Revit/BIM (getting rid of CAD) is that it provides an opportunity to re-think many of the practices that have been erroneously carried forward into this modern age. This is one.

**Stay tuned for my indictment of "ALL CAPS" text.


  1. You are so on the money with this one. I have always been in favor of spelling everything out.

  2. Amen! I cannot believe how much it drives me crazy when people hold on to the past with both hands for no reason, which results extra work and ugly workarounds on the front end. That is directly related to drawing standards that get carried over from the hand drafting times to Revit. ALL CAPS is one of those! Has anyone ever read a book that was written in ALL CAPS? No! It is hard to read, plus as far as revit is concerned CAPS take more space than lowercase especially in the project browser. I won't even go into unit formatting in schedules that result extra parameter just so things looked like "back in the 50's".....

  3. Nice post Jay. I just stumbled upon it and I am in complete agreement.


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