What de facto standards or otherwise exist that prescribe a style for freehand technical lettering?

With the ubiquity of CAD there is probably a diminished need for standardized handwriting. Technical lettering was not part of my undergraduate engineering training yet was frequently mentioned and occasionally required by professors. When "required"- the criteria presented were few; simply capital case, sufficiently 'black', and ruled (drawn on/between lines). I am aware that true or traditional technical lettering has much greater complexity such as prescribing the order of strokes for drawing characters and their proportion.

I personally have sought to apply block lettering for readability and general aesthetic in handwritten drafts, but for lack of formal training apply personal habits of using dashed '7's and Z's and serif'ed 'I's- all of which I suspect are faux pas. Nonetheless I'm curious as to where to look for historical consensus to develop my drafting.

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    $\begingroup$ In school we had to do a lot of hand lettering. There was no official standard (like an ASME or ISO) that I recall, but the textbooks had requirements about spacing, direction, line placement, and gave order of strokes for characters. In early classes this was all measured and graded, but in later classes (as the focus shifted more towards designs and away from basics) individual styles tended to emerge and legibility became the only real criteria. It has been a LONG time for me on these things and I'm sure I would fail a test today :) $\endgroup$
    – CBRF23
    Apr 28, 2016 at 23:22

2 Answers 2


I don't know if there is a formal "standard" for lettering on hand drawings. The best I could tell you to do is consult an older drafting text or the book "Architectural Graphic Standards":


Many draftsmen had their own personal styles for lettering, and as long as it was legible, there were no problems.

Some drafting shops would use lettering templates, like Leroy lettering drafting tools, to maintain a standard style of lettering for their drawings. These templates could be used for pencil or ink drawings. Some of these tools can be found second-hand on sites like e-bay.



There is an ISO standard for this.

The latest version is (probably) "ISO 3098-1:2015 Technical product documentation -- Lettering -- Part 1: General requirements". http://www.iso.org/iso/home/store/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=65679

There are some equivalent local standards, for example DIN 6776, and I believe there is an ANSI standard that dates back to the 1930s.


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