Driving Directions Syntax (Coad Style)


Rts-signLet’s face it, giving or using driving directions is an essential part life, but as much as we do it, its still a lot of writing and can be confusing.  I like thinking of ways to improve, create a process around, and enhance everyday tasks.  To this end, I’ve gradually been working towards an easy and consistent way to jot down driving instructions.  By George, I think I’ve got it…

At first it may look a little tricky, but this is real easy to read and follow after a few uses.  It’s a whole lot faster than spelling everything out.

Syntax
[[x <ex#>] <CompassCode><TurnCode> <Street>|* L/R <St#>] [@ <Landmark>] [A <StreetA>|<Distance>] [B <StreetB>|<Distance>]] [, <next>]

 

Where

x <ex#> Exit freeway w/ exit number, eg: x 179
<CompassCode> N=North, S=South, E=East, W=West
Combos okay too, eg: NE
<TurnCode> R=Right, L=Left
<Street> The street to take next, eg: Roy
* It's here!
<St#> Street address number, eg: 1439
L/R On the Left or Right side of the street
@ <Landmark> At a specific landmark, eg: @ top of the hill
A <StreetA> After <Street>, eg: A. George
B <StreetB> Before <Street>, eg: B. Queen Anne
<Distance> Some distance, eg: 4m = 4 Miles
, <next> Next direction, repeating

Examples
To get from the coffee shop I was at an hour ago (#22) to the one I’m at now (#23) on this map, here are the directions I jotted down:
N W 4th,  W L Denny,  N R 1st,  W L Roy,  S L Queen Anne,  * R @ 525 A Mercer B Republican

To go from work (#1) to my hockey ice rink (#2) on this map, I’d use:
W 520,  N R I-405,  x S L I-5 A 4m,  x 179 W L 220th,  S L 70th @ bottom of the hill B 99 Aurora,  * R

Which translates to: “Go west on 520, Go north by turning right onto I405, Exit to the south by turning left on I5 after 4 miles, next take exit 179 and head west by turning left onto 220th, then go south by turning left onto 70th which will be at the bottom of the hill before 99 Aurora (in case you go too far), the place will be on your right”

Conclusion
Everyone has their own style for giving directions.  It is my opinion that a visual map should always accompany written directions when possible.  I like having a consistent, repeatable way to do things, and this is what I use.  I’m amazed sometimes that our culture hasn’t developed consistent communication shorthand patterns for human-to-human interactions (like this), but then again, its the differences and our uniqueness that makes life so interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable.

Update (2/13/07): Now that I've been using this for a while now, I've made a few slight modifications.  I use this all the time now!

Comments (3)
  1. Marc Brooks says:

    Awesome!  Thanks… I’ve blogged about my subtle changes (adding a slash between N and L, and using X for exit).

  2. Carolin Coad says:

    Thank you for your Driving Code "Coad Style".  As a fellow Coad, I am glad to be made aware of this helpful tool and intend to start implementing it on a practical level.  It is obvious that you put careful thought into coming up with this useful system for driving directions.  

    Thanks, Mom

  3. rgeken says:

    All I want is free driving directions in words, written, verbal; no maps.  I can’t read a map while driving.  What’s the big deal?  Nobody uses words anymore???

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