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over or under?

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As others have said, the only time it matters is when
you're detailing reinforcing in concrete.  We used to
design a lot of continuous slab bridges.  We'd hand
the technician a roughly scaled longitudinal section
of the bridge with the reinforcing sizes and cutoffs
called out on a moment capacity graph, superimposed on
the moment demand envelope as a quick reality check. 
The first time he drew the reinforcing upside down was
the last time we drew our moment diagrams "right side

Since the definition is arbitrary and there is one
good reason to put negative moment on top, I guess
that's how I'd write the program.  Think of it as an
intelligence test: if an engineer can't figure out
which way is which from the shape of the diagram,
watch out.

Mike Hemstad, P.E.
St. Paul, Minnesota  

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