For scientists, weight has to do with the quantity of matter and the downward force on it. The average business person just wants to know how heavy something (or someone) is. There are many different kinds of scales used to measure weight. Understanding how to read a scale will help you choose the right one for your needs.

Weight Scale Measurements

Select a scale whose weight scale measurements are in proportion to what's being weighed. If you're typically shipping packages that weight between 50 and 100 pounds, you probably do not need to calculate weight to a fraction of an ounce. If you're mailing out advertising to customers, you want to know the weight of a letter or brochure in ounces, because that's how the postal service calculates what you'll pay. In a small bakery, you may measure an ingredient such as eggs in grams, which affords greater accuracy than using eggs labelled "medium" or "extra large".

Using a Digital Scale

Digital scales give you a readout with backlit whole numbers and fractions thereof. A small digital postage scale, for example, may weigh letters and packages up to 7 pounds. A readout of of 2.7 means the package weighs two pounds plus 7/10ths of a pound, or 7 pounds, 11.2 ounces.

Using an Analog Scale

The same person who uses an analog postage scale has to read the lines on the scale to find out the weight. You have to know the largest unit of measure, represented by the longest lines, then count the shorter lines in between to know how the largest unit of measure is divided.

The scale may be labeled with capacity and unit of measure. For example, a small kitchen scale may be marked "7 lbs. x 1 oz." That means it weighs items up to seven pounds in increments of one ounce. The metric equivalent of this label would be "3kg x 25g," meaning the scale weighed items up to 3 kilograms in increments of 25 grams.

Read a Scale With Lines

There are 16 ounces in a pound, so a small scale that weighs in pounds and ounces would have the longest lines at the pound marks, slightly shorter lines to mark quarter pounds (4, 8 and 12 ounces) and the shortest lines to mark ounces between the quarter pounds. For example, if the indicator rests on third small line after the 1 pound line, an item weighs 1 pound, 3 ounces.

Digital vs. Analog Scale

Analog scales can be hard to read because you have to figure out the unit of measure represented by the lines. In the case of a bathroom scale, it may be difficult to distinguish the lines. Why not just use a digital scale, which figures out the unit of measure and fractions for you? For one thing, you might not have access to a digital scale, only an analog one. Additionally, there are some disadvantages to using a digital scale:

  • Digital scales require a power source, usually a battery that needs to be recharged or replaced periodically.

  • The cost of a digital scale is typically more than an analog scale; digitals can be quite costly depending on additional features.

  • Manual calibration can be difficult.

  • The accuracy of some digital scales, particularly inexpensive ones, can be affected by humidity and fluorescent light.

Best Uses for Analog Scales

Once you know how to read a scale, using an analog version can be right for your needs. If you want to weigh large packages for shipping, you need a scale that measures in pounds and fractions of pounds. If you're selling small packets of spices or teas to customers, you need a scale that measures in grams, or in fractions of an ounce.