How to

How to Read a Ruler

A ruler is a measuring device with measurement markings on it. Rulers are used in many places like construction, art, mathematics, etc. rulers are usually made of a strip of wood, metal or even plastic. The rulers usually have straight edge but there are some rulers which are made for simple designing purposes and have curvy or some zigzag edges. The edges are marked with some numbers and with some divisions in them. The rulers are of many sizes, ranging from as short as 30 centimeter to as long as 100 meters. Rulers have two kinds of readings in the, imperial and metric i.e. measurement in inches and centimeters respectively.

Let’s first see how to read an imperial ruler-

If a ruler has 12 major divisions then it is an imperial or English ruler. The 12 marks are divisions of 1 foot into 12 inches. Each inch is broken down into 15 further divisions which equals 16 divisions in every inch. The ruler is read from left to right.

  • First thing is learning the inch marks. A standard ruler is made up of 12-inch marks. If you wish to measure a nail just place it near left corner of the ruler. If the nail ends at the number six then the nail is 6 inches long.
  • Now coming to half inch marks, the half inch marks are the second longest lines after the inch marks. The half inch marks will be exactly in the midway between each inch number.
  • Then there are quarter inch marks. These marks are halfway between the ½ inch marks and measure one-fourth of an inch. Consider the first inch, the first ¼ mark which is between the 0 and ½ will measure ¼ inch and the second ¼ mark, which is between ½ and 1 will measure 3/4th of the inch.
  • The further divisions in the English rulers are the 1/8 marks. These marks measure 1/8th of the inch. They are located between 0 and ¼; ¼ and ½; ½ and ¾ and ¾ and 1, considering the first inch. To measure the 8th part of inch, these marks measure as 1/8, 2/8 (or ¼), 3/8, 4/8 (or ½), 5/8, 6/8 (or ¾), 7/8, 8/8 (or 1).
  • Next, there are 1/16th of an inch. These are the smallest division of the inch. Considering the first inch segment, the marks denoting the 16th parts are, 1/16, 2/16 (or 1/8), 3/16, 4/16 (or 1/4), 5/16, 6/16 (or 3/8), 7/16, 8/16 (or 1/2), 9/16, 10/16 (or 5/8), 11/16, 12/16 (3/4), 13/16, 14/16 (or 7/8), 15/16, 16/16 (or 1) of an inch.

The Metric Ruler-

Metric rulers use the metric system which is centimeters and meters. The standard scale measures 30 centimeters. But there are many more variants available like 15cm, 100cm or 1 meter. The scale is read from left to right. And the measurements of the metric rulers are written in decimals instead of fractions.

  • The largest marks on the ruler are the centimeter marks. The standard ruler has 30 marks which means 30 cm. The shorter marks which lie exactly midway between the cm marks are ½ of the cm or 0.5 cm.
  • Now, between each cm, there are 10 smaller lines i.e. 8 small lines, one 0.5 cm line and one-centimeter mark. These marks denote 1/10th of centimeter or millimeter marks. There are 300 millimeter marks in total.

This is how two majorly used rulers are read. There are quite a number of things that are done by ruler. Knowing how to read them is the basic thing requires in geometry, architecture, designing, and many other subjects.


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