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How to Read a Ruler Measurement

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 1

Assuming that the object or item that you want to measure is actually within the 12 inch increments that a ruler provides, some people find it difficult to read a ruler measurement when one gets beyond a whole inch or 1/2 inch increment. Dependent upon how you need to measure, you may actually not even need to use the English standard scale, but, rather, many rulers nowadays also have a Metric standard scale that typically accompanies the English scale on the other side of the ruler.

Regardless of whether one is using the English standard scale or metric scale to measure, it is important to realize that each given length of measurement is subsequently divided into smaller measurements that ultimately divide that larger measurement. For example, on the English scale, one entire foot is divided into 12 inches, and each individual inch is further divided into halves, quarters, eighths, and even sixteenths. Dependent upon how precise you need a measurement to be will determine to what degree you should measure. On some occasions, your measurement may fall directly onto the inch marker, while other measurements may require a more precise reading. It is important to ultimately know what you are measuring, why you are measuring it, and to what degree you need to be precise.

Things You Will Need

  • A ruler, with both English and Metric Scales
  • An object or item that you must measure

Step 1

Metric standard scale rulers are perhaps the easiest to read and, for that reason, we will begin with them first. One metric standard scale ruler will have roughly fourteen centimeters included in the entire length of the ruler. In order to differentiate centimeters from the remaining shorter valued increments, you will find that, on most rulers, centimeters will be marked by long, bold, lines. Accompanying these lines will be numerical values relating to which centimeter they are, up to fourteen on a standard metric scale ruler.

Between each centimeter numeric value are a series of much smaller lines called millimeters. Each centimeter will be divided into ten millimeters, which means that one millimeter would actually be 1/10th of a centimeter. If you measure from the beginning of your ruler, 3 millimeters pass the 2nd centimeter tick mark, then your metric reading would be 2.3 centimeters long.
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Step 2

If you are using a joint English standard scale ruler and a Metric standard scale ruler, in this step, in order to begin reading in English, all you must do is flip over your ruler to the other scale side. On an English standard ruler scale, you may find that your ruler actually has either 1/8th inch scale markings in between each inch, or your ruler may have 1/16th inch scale markings in between each inch. You can easily identify which scale your ruler has by simply counting the number of dashes or marks between each inch. If your ruler has 8 dashes, from the first numerical inch value, to the 2nd numerical inch value, then your ruler is divided into 1/8ths. If your ruler has 16 dashes, from the first numerical inch value, to the 2nd numerical value, then your ruler is divided into 1/16ths for each inch.

A 1/16ths scale ruler (between each inch), while it has more dashes, will ultimately lend to a more precise measurement.

Step 3

Once you have determined whether your English standard scale ruler has 1/8ths or 1/16ths readings between each inch measurement, we can now look into each subdivided measurement that composes a greater inch value measurement. The centermost mark, between the first inch and the 2nd inch numerical value, will be the 1/2 inch mark. Each whole inch is composed of two 1/2 inches. Whether you are using a 1/8th or a 1/16th scale ruler, the middle line will always be the 1/2 inch mark.

Step 4

Both an entire inch, and a 1/2 inch, are divided into 1/4 inches. For an entire inch, you would have four 1/4 inch measurements. For a 1/2 inch measurement, you would have two 1/4 inch measurements included. On a 1/16th scale measurement ruler, you would ultimately have more tick marks between quarter inches, than you would on a 1/8th scale measurement ruler.

Step 5

Once you have identified your 1/4 inch measurements, your 1/4 inches will be further subdivided into 1/8th inches. One entire inch would include eight 1/8th tick marks. Likewise, a 1/4 inch measurement would include two 1/8th inch tick marks. You can clearly begin to see a logical and numerical sequence to how English standard measurement scales are further divided in order to aid in accuracy and precision of measurements.

Learning how to measure is very important in a modern world that relies on accurate and precise measurements when it comes to doing just about everything from constructing a house to baking a cake or constructing a NASA space shuttle. Dependent upon what you are measuring, and why you are measuring it, you may or may not require greater levels of precision. For one item, it may only be necessary to measure to the nearest inch, while, for another item, you may need to measure to even the nearest 1/16th of an inch. While the basic English standard ruler doesn't display further division of measurements, with other tools it is very well possible to measure even more precise readings of measurements.

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Comments

Sep 20, 2010 9:13am
Deborah-Diane
I'm glad that you mentioned that metric measurements are easier to read. I hope that people will gradually learn it is easy to make the switch!
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