Maps are :

  1. a graphic depiction of an area, showing the relative position of different things.
  2. a two dimensional representation.
  3. usually much smaller than what they represent.
  4. has errors (distortion) if a sphere is being mapped (projected) to a flat surface.

Most maps have :

  1. Direction indicators - oftentimes the compass rose.
  2. Scale - the relationship (ratio) between length measured on the map and in real life.
  3. Coordinate system for finding location, oftentimes latitude (° N or S) and longitude (° E or W).
  4. Key or legend for symbols and colors used on the map.

Most maps have specialized uses and features :

  1. topographic map - shows contour lines (elevation).
  2. mariners map - shows water depths.
  3. pilots map - shows airports and max height of landforms.
  4. Profile map - shows vertical changes over a distance.

More on Scale

Scale is shown as a ratio. 1 unit:25,000 units. One length unit on the map is equal to 25,000 of those same units in real life.

Maps usually have a graphic scale. A line on the map marked off in graduated distances.