Thursday, November 14, 2013

number clarity

Some day, all of our field information will be entered on tablets and there will be no confusion about handwriting interpretation.

Some geologists have developed an all-caps sort of handwriting where everything is concise and exact. I was taught this in drafting in 7th grade. I couldn't really do it then, either.

But I'd like to think that my handwriting is generally legible and that when I write in all caps, it doesn't look like I'm in the third grade. I haven't had too many people chase me down after the fact to interpret my field notes. Of course, there are times when it's raining or cold and the succession of pens I keep as warm/dry backups in the depths of my clothing have all failed and I'm in a hurry. And then it takes a special frame of mind for me to recreate what the hell I was trying to say.

The real problem is numbers. Words you can often figure out from context, or failing that, figure that a particular phrase was not particularly earth-shattering. Numbers may have some context ("that pH couldn't possibly be 17!"), but often it's critical to get the correct number without guessing at a reasonable approximation.

I am very careful that my numbers are distinct so that I can never confuse them. For me, a 1 is a single line, a 2  has a little bubble in the lower left part, a 3 doesn't have any bubbles, a 4 always has hard edges, a 5 has a pronounced sharp top and curved bottom, a 6 always has a curve to it to distinguish it from a "b", a 7 has a little cross through the center, an 8 is... just an 8, a 9 has a closed and rounded top (to distinguish from a 4), and a 0 is just a 0.

Hmm. That may not make any sense to a reader. Here's what my numbers look like:
Of course, the problem is that I know what my numbers are supposed to look like. Then someone else comes along to interpret my handwriting while I'm out, and then they think my 7 is a 9, my 2 is a 3...


Lockwood said...

I had always felt crossing z's was an affectation. Then when I started OSU, I realized my z and 2 were indistinguishable. Especially in math class, but also in hurried class notes, and later, field work, this was dangerous. Though I write very little by hand these days (to the point I practice my signature a couple times before I put it on something significant), I still cross my z's, 30-some years later.

Short Geologist said...

Me too - I started in college calculus when I needed to keep track of my notes to study, and never looked back.

wxsby said...

I don't have bad handwriting. I just have my own font.