Modern non-metallic sheathed cables, such as (US and Canadian) Types NMB and NMC, consist of two to four wires covered with thermoplastic insulation, plus a bare wire for grounding (bonding), surrounded by a flexible plastic jacket. Some versions wrap the individual conductors in paper before the plastic jacket is applied.
Unlike a pictorial diagram, a wiring diagram uses abstract or simplified shapes and lines to show components. Pictorial diagrams are often photos with labels or highly-detailed drawings of the physical components.
Most symbols used on a wiring diagram look like abstract versions of the real objects they represent. For example, a switch will be a break in the line with a line at an angle to the wire, much like a light switch you can flip on and off. A resistor will be represented with a series of squiggles symbolizing the restriction of current flow. An antenna is a straight line with three small lines branching off at its end, much like a real antenna.
In a typical electrical code, some colour-coding of wires is mandatory. Many local rules and exceptions exist per country, state or region. Older installations vary in colour codes, and colours may fade with insulation exposure to heat, light and ageing.
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