The common terminals will always be connected to a hot wire, either from the source or on the light fixture. These connections can be reversed if it’s more convenient, as long as one of the 3 way common terminals connects to the hot source and the other one connects to the hot on the load, these circuits will work properly.
Here a single-pole switch controls the electricity to a light fixture. The source is at the switch and 2-conductor cable runs from there to the light. The source hot wire is connected to the bottom terminal on the switch and the top terminal is connected to the black cable wire. The neutral wire from the source is spliced to the white cable wire and continues on to the light. At the light, the white wire connects to the neutral terminal and the black wire connects to the hot.
This is an older version of the receptacle in the first diagram. The slots are different sizes to accept polarized plugs, but it lacks a grounding slot. This device does not make use of a ground wire. There is no protection against electrocution as provide by the grounded receptacle.
In this arrangement the source for the circuit is at the light fixture. 3-wire cable runs from the switches on each side, to the light. The hot source is spliced to the common terminal on SW2 and the hot terminal on the light fixture connects to the common terminal on SW1. The traveler wires are spliced at the fixture box and run to the traveler terminals on both switches.
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