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Map Scale Types

The Graphic Method

A Graphic Scale depicts scale using a line, with separations marked by smaller intersecting lines, similar to a ruler. One side of the scale represents the distance on the map, while the other side represents the true distances of objects in real life. By measuring the distance between two objects on a map and then referring to the graphic scale, it is easy to calculate the actual distance between those same items.

Graphic Map Scale

There are many benefits to using a graphic scale. First and foremost, it is a straight forward, easy way to determine scale. Secondly, if a map’s size is enlarged or decreased, the scale is also enlarged or reduced, meaning that it is still accurate.

The Verbal Method

The verbal method of depicting scale simply uses words to describe the ratio between the map’s scale and the real world. For example, a map might say something like, “one inch equals one hundred and fifty miles.” Calculating scale on a map using the verbal method is easy. Simply measure the distance on the map and then follow the verbal directions to calculate the actual distance.

Verbal Map Scale

The Fractional Method

The fractional method for portraying the scale of a map uses a representative fraction to describe the ratio between the map and the real world. This can be shown as 1:50,000 or 1/50,000. In this example, 1 unit of distance on the map represents 50,000 of the same units of distance in the real world. This means that 1 inch on the map represents 50,000 inches in the real world, 1 foot on the map represents 50,000 feet on the map, and so forth.

Fractional Map Scale