How to Write Coordinates of Latitude and Longitude

How to Write Coordinates

Before we plunge into writing GPS coordinates, it is essential that you know about Global Positioning System (GPS).

What are the GPS Coordinates

GPS coordinates are the part of GPS system, which means Global Positioning System. It is a worldwide navigation system and that people use for pinpointing an exact location on the globe. Besides this, GPS obtains the current time of any specific location.

The system works with the help of man-made satellites, known as GPS satellites. These geographical satellites orbit above our planet at a great speed and with high precision. The devices use low-powered waves to communicate with the other satellites to determine accurate locations on the Earth.

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Longitude and Latitude – GPS Coordinates

Representing the coordinates of GPS, latitude, and longitude are the units of the coordinate system. Just like every house has a physical location with an address that includes street name, number, city, country, etc., every single place on the globe is searchable with longitude and latitude coordinates. Both the map coordinates are imaginary lines on the globe, specifying locations virtually to put it simply.

Latitude vs. Longitude

What is Latitude?

Lines of Latitude are imaginary and horizontal. They form an angle between equatorial planes. The Equator is the longest and central line of latitude. It marks as 0-degree latitude.

What is Longitude?

Stretching from North to the South, lines of Longitude are imaginary and vertical. The main longitude line is called Prime Meridian that shows 0 – degrees longitude.

Writing Map Coordinates – Latitude and Longitude

Map coordinates are the standard form of specifying an accurate location on the globe. Writing longitude and latitude is not only different but also follows a specific format. It requires the use of the correct symbol and a clear understanding of how to read and write them.

There are a couple of ways you can write coordinates on the map. By using one latitude line and one longitude line, you can represent map coordinates. The other methods include identifying the lines of longitude and latitude on the map. Then, select an appropriate format to place the numbers, symbols, decimals, and degrees.

To help you learn the easiest format, we have described all four methods here.

How to Write Basic Longitude and Latitude

Identify Longitude Lines

Stretching from North to the South Pole, lines of longitude move across the globe vertically. The line ‘Prime Meridian’ is a central point and divides longitude lines. It has 0-degree mark “°” that you need to use while indicating the degrees.

  • As the lines of longitude move from east to west direction, each line increases by 1 degree. Use letter ‘S’ to show the longitude line falling within the east side of the prime meridian. For example, a longitude line can be 20° E.
  • The case is same when the lines of longitude fall within the west side of Prime Meridian. They also increase by 1 degree as you move onwards. You can indicate them by using the symbol ‘W’ such as 18° W.

Identify Latitude Lines

Stretching from East to West, lines of latitude move across the globe horizontally. The main line is equator here which has the same mark zero degrees as longitude lines. It has the same symbol “°” to show degrees.

This coordinate of location increases by 1 degree until it reaches 90 degrees when you go north of the equatorial line. The 90 degree marks the North Pole f the equatorial line. It uses symbol ‘N’ to indicate north. For example,  20°N.

The lines of latitude follow the same method when moving south of the equatorial line. Each line increases by a 1-degree mark until it reaches 90 degrees. Using ‘S’ as a symbol for South, you can indicate it like ‘14° S.

 Connect the Map Coordinates

At the third stage of this phase, you need to determine where both map coordinates connect on the map. For instance, your location may have 20° E longitude line and 20°N latitude line on the map. When writing the geographical lines, begin with the latitude line, put a comma and then write longitude such as 20° N, 20° E.

Writing Coordinates with Minutes, Seconds and Degrees

Identify the Geographical Lines on the Map

This method tells you the locations with improved accuracy than just identifying the map coordinates. To determine the précised locations, you can break down geographical lines (longitude and latitude) in minutes and seconds. The first step is to identify the broad lines of map coordinates.

For example, your location can be 15°N and 20° E

Count the Minutes between the Geographical Lines

This part is the most important step of this method. There is one-degree space between each longitude and latitude line. This degree is further broken into minutes. Let us suppose there are 70 even minutes between the lines of longitude and latitude. You need to pinpoint the exact line falling between the lines of longitude and latitude and showing the minutes. Use an apostrophe to indicate the minutes between geographical lines. You can use online maps to help you find the exact number of minutes.

For example, if there are 25 minutes between the lines, write “25”.

Find the Second between the Geographical Lines

The next step is finding the seconds once you identify minutes between the geographical lines. Each minute has 60 seconds, and an online map can help you locate the exact interval between the minutes. Use a quotation mark to indicate them.

For example, if your longitude line has 20 seconds between the minutes, write 20”.

Put Degrees, Minutes and Seconds in Order

The next step is to put the précised coordinates in order. You can follow this format

  • Latitude line with the degree
  • Minutes
  • Seconds
  • Symbol of directions N or S
  • Comma and longitude line with the degree
  • Minutes
  • Seconds
  • Symbol of directions E or W

The geographical lines will be like, 15° 25’20”N, 20°15’4” E

Writing Coordinates with Degree, Decimal Minutes

Identify the Geographical Lines

The third method uses a decimal point to indicate the minutes. However, it also starts with the same process of identifying the geographical lines of longitude and latitude. Find out the connecting points of broad lines on the map to pinpoint the location.

Let us suppose your location is 25°N, 10°W.

Find the Minutes, Using Decimal Points

Some maps use decimals with the minutes instead of using seconds. Using the online map to identify decimals is a convenient way to find the decimal value for each longitude and latitude line.

For example, you may find a latitude line at 25.0534 minutes.

Determine the Positive and Negative Value of the Numbers

The method does not rely on identifying the directions like East, West, North or South. However, it requires you to use negative and positive numbers to find the locations falling on the map.

The important point is to remember the correct direction of the geographical line. The lines of latitude stretch from N to S on the equatorial line. The north includes the positive numbers and South includes negative numbers.

As Lines of longitude stretch across E to W of the Prime Meridian (PM),  numbers that fall east of PM are positive and the numbers that fall west of PM are negative.

For example: 25.0534 fall east, and – 25.0534 fall west

 Write out Map Coordinates with Positive and Negative Numbers

To write the full map locations, begin writing with the latitude line, add other coordinates like minutes and decimals. Put comma and then write longitude line with its minutes and decimals. Do not forget to indicate the coordinates with negative and positive numbers. This format does not include symbols for directions.

After identifying geographical lines, minutes and decimals, you can write map coordinate like this 25 10.325, 30 – 25.0534.

4. Decimal Degree

Find the Geographical Lines

You can also represent degrees of longitude and latitude using decimals. One degree is divided into decimals to pinpoint the accurate location. To learn this format, first, you need to find the right degree of longitude and latitude. For example, 30°N, 15°W

Break down Lines into Decimal Points

The next step is to break down these lines into the decimal points. An online map can do this for you. Decimal points usually comprise of five digits.

For example: 25.326 North, 35.152 South

Identify the Negative and Positive Value

Following the same pattern as method 3, you need to indicate whether the decimal digits are positive or negative. For example, 25.326 or -35.152 for latitude and 45.256 or -31.265 for longitude

Write Coordinates with Decimals

You write a line of latitude first. Then you add a decimal degree, comma and decimal degree of longitude. Positive and negative digits indicate directions.

For example: 30 25.326, 15 -31.265

Bottom Line

Overall, there are many ways to represent the geographical lines. Understanding the concept of the Global Positioning System is the first step to learn how to read and write coordinates of longitude and latitude correctly.